CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Although Duke embraced its sixth seed in the ACC Tournament, the underdogs had their season finished by the Terrapins.
No. 22 Duke fell 2-1 to No. 8 Maryland in a back-and-forth battle in Chapel Hill. With their loss in the quarterfinals, the Blue Devils’ season is finished.
Maryland (15-4, 4-2) opened up the scoring in the eighth minute with a goal by senior midfielder Megan Frazer to put Duke (7-11, 0-5 in the ACC) in a 1-0 hole. The Blue Devils were on the defensive side of the ball for the majority of the first half, and they did not penetrate Maryland’s side of the field until the 19th minute. The Terrapins’ tight defense, however, immediately cleared Duke out of the circle.
But in the 29th minute, the Blue Devils’ offense came to life. Each of Duke’s first half shots and penalty corners came in the final six minutes of play. Their awakened offense evened them statistically with the more consistent Maryland offense, as each team ended the first half with six shots. The Blue Devils had three penalty corners to the Terrapins’ four.
“Maryland put it on us in the beginning, and I think we were just absorbing,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “It wasn’t until we actually got a sense of what the tempo of the game was that we were able to step it up, turn it on and push it forward.”
Duke was able to “turn it on” in the second half when redshirt junior midfielder Devon Gagliardi scored in the 42nd minute. Gagliardi’s eighth goal of the season tied the game for the Blue Devils on a play that began with junior midfielder Grace Christus’ breakaway down the left side of the field.
“That goal was beautiful,” Bustin said. “That was exactly the attacking pattern and game plan we knew we could succeed with. It was just a matter of getting people in the right places and recognizing it at the right time.”
Duke’s momentum was stunted in the 54th minute on a goal from Terrapin junior forward Jill Witmer. The goal forced Bustin to immediately call a timeout. “The timeout was just for us to get back to our basics,” Bustin said. “One thing our team needs to get better at is locking in with our mentality and staying on pace. I was a little short on time, though, because I was hoping to do it before [Maryland’s] goal went in.”
After the goal, the Blue Devils were running out of time to tie the game up and keep their season alive. In the 71st minute, freshman defender Hannah Barreca replaced sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing in a last-ditch effort to galvanize Duke’s offense. Despite chances in Maryland’s circle and an incredible defensive stop by junior defender Paula Heimbach on a Maryland penalty corner in the 75th minute, the Blue Devils were unable to convert.
“We knew that if the chance came, we were going to have to [pull the goalkeeper],” Bustin said. “We had talked about it, and I’m really proud with the way we handled it.”
There are many reasons to be “proud” of Duke and its season, but after its early exit from the tournament, the Blue Devils are stuck wondering what could have been.
“I think we had a few more chances than the scoreboard showed, and there were a couple of calls and corners that were pretty close, so we are disappointed,” junior forward Emmie Le Marchand said.
Bustin, however, is already looking forward to next season.
“Our kids are getting smarter. They’re growing, and they’re getting better,” Bustin said. “It’s too bad that the seniors don’t get another shot at being a better team again tomorrow, but time is precious. You have to take advantage of every chance you get to train and play, so hopefully that’s what the rest of the team does for next year.”