Duke opened its 2014 campaign with skilled scoring efforts from veterans and newcomers alike.
The Blue Devils bested Michigan State 2-1 in overtime Friday in East Lansing, Mich., gaining momentum that propelled them right into a 4-1 domination against Central Michigan Sunday. The six Duke goals were evenly divided between returners and freshmen playing in their first-ever collegiate matchup.
“Every game [is] going to be everybody’s opportunity,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “If some of the freshmen can come in and finish at times that are crucial, then I’m really happy.”
Freshman defender Alexa Mackintire helped the Blue Devils (2-0) to their first win at Ralph Young Field, the Spartans’ home turf. Spinning past the goalie, Mackintire’s shot sailed straight to the back of the net, ending the sudden-death overtime after 85 total minutes of play.
Mackintire’s classmate Ainsley Gill came off the bench to put Duke on the board. After 21 minutes of scoreless play, the Blue Devil offense effectively executed a corner to gain the 1-0 lead. Gill received the assist from classmate Alyssa Chillano and senior Abby Beltrani, netting her first of two goals over the course of the weekend.
“It ended up being really crucial with the go-ahead goal and then the winning goal coming from the freshmen,” Bustin said. “It happened to be at the right place at the right time, and they knew what the game plan was.”
Duke’s steadfast defense did exactly what was needed to protect its lead en route to the victory. Michigan State senior Abby Barker, who has led the team in goals every year since beginning her college career, evened the score with just eight seconds left in regulation. The goal was redshirt junior goalkeeper Lauren Blazing’s only goal allowed for the game next to nine saves on the day. The Blue Devil defense altogether allowed seven penalty corners in regulation, managing to deny every scoring effort but one.
“It was opening day,” Bustin said. “There were some things we definitely need to continue to work on…. I’m hoping we can improve from today’s match and bring it into our next game this week.”
After edging out a close win Friday, Duke left no question on the field in its next game as to which was the stronger team. Although the freshmen dominated the scoring effort against the Spartans (1-1), Sunday’s lead came from experienced returners. Senior forward Jessica Buttinger scored just two minutes into the game and again right before halftime to give the Blue Devils a comfortable two-goal lead.
“Jess definitely came out with the mentality to finish [Sunday],” Bustin said. “She really made it count in the beginning with an early goal, and then she followed it up with a second goal, which was great.”
Just before the first half ended, the Chippewas (0-2) managed to convert a penalty corner into a goal to cut Duke’s lead in half. Starting up the second half of play, sophomore midfielder Hunter Bracale quieted Central Michigan’s hope of gaining any momentum as she dove to the ground and managed to deflect the ball past the goalie and into the net.
“Hunter’s goal was beautiful,” Bustin said. “Those two efforts definitely sparked [the offense] and continued to keep our attack alive.”
The offensive spark stayed lit well into the second half, when Gill added her second goal of the season off of a rebound to bring the score to 4-1. The Chippewas left the weekend in East Lansing without a win, while the Blue Devils returned home undefeated in their first two rounds of play.
Duke will open its home stint Friday at 4:30 p.m., welcoming Princeton to Jack Katz Stadium. The Tigers will be playing in their first game of the season Friday, looking to challenge the Blue Devils’ undefeated record.