With a conference containing seven nationally-ranked opponents, the Blue Devils knew the ACC tournament was going to be a battle.

Unfortunately for Duke, even the tournament favorites can have missteps, with the Blue Devils falling just short in a marathon game.

No. 2 seed Duke was upset by No. 3 seed Louisville 3-2 in a shootout Friday afternoon at Trager Stadium in Louisville, Ky., in the ACC tournament semifinals. Although the Blue Devils dominated offensively, outshooting the Cardinals 31-8, timely plays and a herculean effort from Louisville goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran put Duke behind for much of the matchup.

“Incredibly proud of the level and the quality of hockey we played today,” Blue Devil head coach Pam Bustin told GoDuke.com. “We kept changing up what we had to do and they did it, they did it well and they did it at an extremely high level. No matter what went through the interchange, we were strong and I was really proud of that. I was proud of the energy and the belief that they had from start to finish and the enjoyment that they played with today.”

Despite nearly doubling the Cardinals’ offensive attempts leading into the second period, Duke (16-3, 4-2) found itself behind going into the locker room.

With just three minutes left in the first half, Louisville (14-6) grabbed the momentum. After a pair of shots from Blue Devil senior Alexa Mackintire and junior Caroline Andretta, the Cardinals pushed for the counterattack into the heart of Duke territory. As both teams clashed around the penalty circle, Louisville notched a penalty corner—its first real opportunity to score all afternoon. 

Although goalkeeper Sammi Steele made back-to-back blocks to keep the Cardinals out, Louisville junior Katie Walsh ultimately found an opportunity, rocketing the ball to the back of the net to put the Cardinals on the board.

But this wasn’t the first time Duke found itself behind at the half, and the Blue Devils came out into the second half with a vengeance.

Playing off a penalty corner from senior Stephanie Pezzuti, senior Ashley Kristen slid a pass right to senior Alyssa Chillano, who rocketed a shot right above McFerran to even the score with less than 15 minutes left..

But minutes later, Cardinal senior Marigrace Ragsdale broke right through Duke’s front line to find sophomore Minout Mink wide open. The Louisville forward caught Steele out of position, deflecting her shot off of the Blue Devil keeper’s pads to put the Cardinals ahead for the waning minutes of the half.

Although Duke attempted two more shots and two more corners, the Blue Devils didn’t find a breakthrough until the final 30 seconds of the period. Relentlessly hammering the Louisville back line, Duke finally got a break when senior Ainsley Gill slid a cross right to Kristen. The Blue Devil forward lined up the shot and launched it right under McFerran, keeping Duke alive into overtime.

Despite the Blue Devils again controlling the pace of the match—taking 15 shots to just two from the Cardinals in the two 15-minute overtimes—Duke could not push one past McFerran, forcing the match into a shootout.

“I loved that they continued to find ways,” Bustin told GoDuke.com. “Some of the shots were world-class shots—quick shots and double shots and rebound shots. We had opportunities in overtime and McFerran was able to clearly play the ball. Obviously, a goalkeeper who’s hot like that—you don’t really want to go into shootouts, but I was extremely proud of the way we played.”

Tied 3-3 in the shootout, a whiffed save from Steele off a shot from Mink put Louisville ahead, and a missed shot wide right from sophomore Haley Schleicher sealed the Blue Devils' ACC tournament demise.

Despite dominating on offense, Duke couldn’t stand up to the Cardinals’ bulletproof defense. McFerran totaled 18 saves—a career high for the Larne, Northern Ireland, native.

“Great credit to Louisville for playing their game, which is a really well-structured game,” Bustin told GoDuke.com. “Their goalkeeper—it was probably one of the best goalkeeping performances anyone has ever seen—was clearly the difference-maker.”

The Blue Devils will now have to wait for Sunday’s NCAA selection show to find out where they will open play in the NCAA tournament next weekend.