Duke faced its toughest match yet in a loss to top rival North Carolina Friday, falling 7-3 in an offensive rout. They rebounded against Michigan State Sunday, beating their first higher-ranked opponent of the season in a 4-2 victory.

The No. 1 Tar Heels (9-1, 1-0 in the ACC) got out to a 4-0 lead with a goal apiece from sophomore Samantha Travers, junior Jaclyn Gaudioso Radvany, and two goals from defending ACC Player of the Week Charlotte Craddock. They held that lead for the first half, when they also outnumbered Duke in shots 13-3 and penalty corners 5-2.

But the Blue Devils bounced back in the second half. In the 48th minute, senior Abby Hassinger scored her first goal of the season on a strike from the top of the circle, and two minutes later, junior Emmie Le Marchand scored her fifth on a sharp shot from Brenna Rescigno. Le Marchand tacked on her sixth goal in the 62nd minute.

“We made the adjustments we needed to make. We got our mind where it needed to be to really come out again and focus on how we can take the second half so we could maybe get back into the game and get it going,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “I’m really pleased with how we responded and what we became at the end of the game. But of course the result isn’t what we wanted.”

Duke’s second half surge was not enough, as North Carolina refound its first-half dominance. In the 55th minute, Tar Heel senior Kelsey Kolojejchick scored on a penalty stroke, followed by Craddock’s third goal on a breakaway and sophomore Loren Shealy’s goal off Blue Devil goalie Ashley Camano’s rebound. Camano finished the game with seven saves, but it was not enough to stave off the Tar Heels’ attack.

Missing six players competing in the Pan-American games, Duke tired late with a depleted roster and only one substitute available.

“The UNC game was a battle,” Duke senior Mary Nielsen said. “It was pretty hard. We tried as hard as we could but we didn’t get the result that we wanted.” Even though they did not beat their biggest rival, the Blue Devils still had much to take from the game.

“It showed us how much we have to give because we scored two goals in about three minutes, and it really put them on their toes,” Nielsen said. “We obviously didn’t win, but we showed them what we were capable of.”

Nielsen powered Duke (4-6) against Michigan State (5-5) Sunday. The Spartans got on the board early when sophomore Heather Howie scored on an assist from sophomore Abby Barker in the third minute. Nielsen responded on a pass from sophomore Martine Chichizola in the 18th minute, only to have Barker score in the 23rd minute off a Camano rebound.

But, just like the North Carolina game, the Blue Devils dominated during the second half. Junior McKay Ross scored her first goal of the season in the 41st on redshirt junior Devon Gagliardi’s pass, and Nielsen put Duke ahead for good off a rebound from Michigan State goalie Molly Cassidy in the 44th minute. In the end, the Blue Devils outnumbered the Spartans 25-6 in shots and 12-2 in penalty corners.

“I was proud of the way we attacked for the second half [against North Carolina], so I wanted to continue that today,” Bustin said. “We did that the first half but not with the mentality of actually finishing. I think we got caught up in the two quick goals by Michigan State, and we weren’t thinking that we had to do that on the other end, so at half time that’s all I said—focus on the scoring.”

The Blue Devils will get a boost next weekend when their six players will return from the Pan-American games. Freshman Kendra Perrin and sophomore Jessica Buttinger return to Durham with the silver medal for Canada, while freshmen Aileen Johnson and Hannah Barreca, and sophomores Abby Beltrani and Lauren Blazing won the bronze medal for the United States. Blazing got the victory in the United States’ semifinal victory that ensured both teams clinched spots at the Junior World Cup.

“This was the fifth game we’ve had 12 or 11 players, and let’s face it, fatigue’s going to creep in,” Bustin said. “I’m proud of our team for taking care of their bodies and showing up every day to run and play the way they did. It was a dominating performance the second half of both games, and I couldn’t be more proud of them. But now we have our family back together, and we’ll integrate them on Tuesday and get ready for the second half of the season.”