Crunch time has been Duke's time in 2013.
Coming from behind in their third overtime game this season, the No. 7 Blue Devils pulled out yet another late win Friday night at Jack Katz Stadium, winning 2-1 against California.
“I’m really proud of the team’s mentality,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “They play smart, and they play with a certain will to win.”
After a 1-1 end to regulation, Duke battled through one overtime and into a second before graduate student Cherry Seaborn buried the golden goal, her fifth tally of the season.
The Duke offense had 12 shots knocked away by Golden Bear goalkeeper Courtney Hendrickson and failed to convert on any of its four penalty corners. But Seaborn's goal in the 93rd minute kept Duke's four-game win streak alive. Dribbling down the field and into the shooting circle, Seaborn fired a shot from 10 yards out that flew past Hendrickson and into the goal.
“I thought we worked hard from the start, which was brilliant,” Seaborn said. “We didn’t let our heads drop and obviously got the result at the end.”
Although Duke (9-2) had no shortage of scoring opportunities throughout regulation and the first overtime, the Golden Bears (4-5) were the first team on the scoreboard. After a scoreless first half, defender Clara Goni edged a shot past goalkeeper Lauren Blazing to give California a lead just seven minutes into the second period.
The Blue Devils mounted a quick response when Aileen Johnson had her shot deflected, but senior McKay Ross gathered up the rebound and sent it into the left corner of the net to even the score for Duke.
“I saw Aileen take a shot, and it bounced off the goalkeeper," Ross said. "I heard [the ball] hit the backboard, and I was like ‘wow, I got that,'” Ross said.
For the remainder of regulation and the entire first overtime, Duke continued its strong attack, keeping the ball on its offensive half of the field.
“We did have good control for a majority of the time,” Ross said. “It was a key part for us to just stay focused.”
Down-to-the-wire games have become a trend for this year's season, meaning the Blue Devils have had practice at maintaining momentum despite being down early. A week ago they came from behind to beat top-ranked North Carolina in another overtime win.
“You’ve just got to think of it as nil-nil, which is what we’ve been quite good at doing. We did this last week—we went two goals down against [North Carolina] and we managed to pull it back,” Seaborn said. “We’re a very focused group, and you’ve just got to think one stage at a time.”
Last season, the Blue Devils made it a habit of coming out on the wrong end of close results. At this point in the 2012 campaign, Duke had only won five games and was winless in conference play. This year, the team has already notched three wins against ranked opponents.
With a 3-0 record in overtime games, extended play may take its toll on the Blue Devil squad if it continues for the remainder of the season. The team has only one day to recover before facing No. 10 Wake Forest in their second conference game Sunday. The Blue Devils’ season will only get harder from there, as postseason play means shorter turnaround time between games.
“It’s not ideal, but it’s just the way it is.” Bustin said. “It could be this way come championship time at the end of the season, where you go along and you have a day off and you have to play the next day.”