In the biting wind and driving rain, No. 15 Duke faced its toughest challenge of the year: a showdown with No. 2 Boston College. Although the Blue Devils fought hard, they couldn’t keep pace with the undefeated Eagles.

Duke entered Saturday afternoon’s matchup at Koskinen Stadium on the heels of an impressive victory against then-No. 11 Syracuse and was hoping to keep up the momentum and upset the top dog in the ACC, but the combination of brutal weather and the Eagles’ suffocating pressure proved to be overpowering in an 18-8 defeat.

“Under normal circumstances, we aren’t a turnover-prone team,” Blue Devil head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “However, I don’t think we handled the weather very well and I don’t think we handled their pressure well, either. They did a good job of challenging us and pushing us, which led to an unusually high number of turnovers for us.” 

Both teams opened by playing solid defense, and the game remained scoreless for the first six minutes. But the Eagles (14-0, 5-0 in the ACC) consistently challenged the Duke defense, and it paid off when sophomore Cara Urbank flashed toward the goal, received a pass and punched it in to give Boston College the early lead. 

Duke (7-5, 2-3) quickly responded with a beautiful run by freshman Katie Cronin up the right sideline to tie the game, but the Eagles did not let that momentum last long. Boston College carved up the defense and capitalized on mistakes, scoring three goals in two minutes to take a commanding lead. 

“We struggled to clear the ball and we gave them way too many opportunities off of our turnovers,” Kimel said. “When we turned the ball over, they capitalized and they shoved it right back down our throats. We let them create momentum off of our mistakes.”

The Blue Devils clawed back, scoring two quick goals to pull within one. Junior Olivia Jenner set up Catriona Barry with a beautiful pass, and the freshman secured the first of her two goals. Soon after, freshman Abby Landry cut right through the Eagle defense, received a pass from behind the goal, and rocketed the ball into the net. Both plays were well-executed, but the veteran Eagles did not get flustered and put their foot back on the gas. 

With 17:57 left in the half, Sam Apuzzo made a leaping catch within the eight-meter arc and finished while still airborne. Senior Kaileen Hart assisted on a similar play that Dempsey Arsenault finished. Hart scored a goal of her own less than a minute later. When Emma Schurr scored to make it four straight for the Eagles, Kimel decided to replace goalie Gabbe Cadoux with junior Jamie Lockwood to try and stem the tide. 

“Both of our goalies have been pretty even throughout the season,” Kimel said. “We let Boston College go on a run and we decided to give Jamie an opportunity to see if she could make a difference. I think she did, she had a couple of nice stops.”

Lockwood’s entrance coincided with the Blue Devils’ defense stiffening, as they forced Boston College to work harder for its goals. At the same time, Senior Kyra Harney rallied the Duke offense, scoring one goal and assisting on another. With that assist, Harney secured the 200th point of her career, becoming only the 10th Blue Devil to reach that milestone. 

Duke’s stronger defense at the end of the first half forced multiple shot clock violations and created offensive opportunities, but the Blue Devils couldn’t capitalize. On the other hand, the Eagles ruthlessly pressed the advantage, scoring four more goals to enter halftime with a 12-5 lead.

“When we had them settled, I felt that we really made them work for their opportunities,” Kimel said. ”And if we are going to turn the ball over when we clear it, we have to do a better job of re-defending, which is where I think we gave them way to many easy opportunities.”

The second half was more of the same, as the Eagles had a response for every Duke goal. When Landry scored just 19 seconds into the half, Boston College retaliated with three straight goals to extend its lead to nine. 

Cronin scored twice more for the Blue Devils to secure a hat trick and set a new career high, but Eagles’ midfielder Taylor Walker had a hat trick of her own in the final 15:08, as she outscored the entire Duke team in the second half. 

For the game, the Eagles attempted 39 shots, 20 more than the Blue Devils, in part thanks to their unrelenting pressure that forced eight more turnovers than Duke. The Blue Devils struggled to their lowest scoring output of the season. 

Boston College also face-guarded both Charlotte North and Grace Fallon, Duke’s leaders in scoring and assists. The two normally average a combined 4.4 goals and 2.5 assists, but they only combined for two missed shots and three turnovers Saturday. Between the harsh conditions and the stifling Boston College defense, the Blue Devils simply didn’t look like themselves. 

“They’re a very seasoned, veteran team, and I think that today, and against Virginia, we looked like a young team out there,” Kimel said.

The Blue Devils only get one day off after the loss before they travel to face No. 25 High Point at 6 p.m. Monday.