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Blue Devils earn split against pair of top-10 teams at UNC

When a team earns a split against two of the top 10 teams in the country, it is usually satisfied with the effort. Not necessarily so for the women's soccer team this weekend.

No. 12 Duke (3-2) lost to No. 3 Notre Dame, 3-0, Friday but rallied Sunday to topple ninth-ranked Hartford, 2-1 at the Nike Carolina Classic in Chapel Hill.

The team that lost to Notre Dame, 3-0, on Friday was nothing like the team that defeated Hartford on Sunday. Friday, Duke simply could not contend with the Fighting Irish, while Sunday it was on a mission to prove itself.

Coach Bill Hempen broke down the weekend into four distinct Duke teams, separated by halves and each with its own level of play: "poor, poor, excellent, average."

Sophomore midfielder Susan Kraeger agreed with Hempen's estimation of the Notre Dame game.

"[It was] not how we wanted to play," she said.

Both coaches and players, however, were pleased with the improvements the Blue Devils made for their match with Hartford.

Duke clearly dominated the first half Sunday, keeping the ball near Hartford's goal. Just eight minutes into the game, the Blue Devils scored on an unassisted shot by Stefanie Kraay. Later in the half, Kraeger put Duke ahead 2-0 on a penalty kick.

"That's as good as we've played in a long time," Hempen said.

Hempen admitted, though, that in the second half Duke showed signs of regression. Play shifted downfield, away from the Hartford goal and closer to Duke's own. This change put more pressure on Duke goalie Isis Dallis.

Dallis, who Hempen said was about 90-percent recovered from a torn MCL, returned to the starting role for the first time Sunday. While she could not stop a late penalty kick by Hartford's Sandra Doreleijers, Dallis was able to turn away all of the other shots. A last-minute flurry of activity by Hartford did not produce the equalizer, and Duke walked away with a 2-1 win.

Against the Irish, the Blue Devils were outplayed throughout, as Notre Dame outshot Duke 17-4. Meotis Erickson put the Irish ahead 1-0 off an assist from Jenny Heft in the 30th minute.

Heft added two goals of her own in the second half to keep the Blue Devils at bay.

The Blue Devils will now prepare to host the Duke-adidas Women's Soccer Classic two weeks from now in Durham, but first, the Blue Devils face Maryland and Virginia this weekend to open ACC play.

Duke's schedule can't get much more difficult. The Blue Devils have already faced the Nos. 3, 4 and 9 teams in the country.

"We have a lot of work to do this week," Kraeger said, "but we are going to be ready for them."

When the Blue Devils finally face North Carolina later this year, it is certain that they will be ready for them, too.

Craig Saperstein and Patti Brandetsas contributed to this story.

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