See you later, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. Take a hike, demons. The drought, the streak--whatever you want to call it--is over.
After 49 straight games of frustration, almosts and losses to arch-rival North Carolina, Duke's field hockey team finally broke through in a very big way, routing the visiting Tar Heels 5-0 in a non-conference match Saturday afternoon in front of an overflowing crowd at Williams Field.
The win pushes the Blue Devils' record to 12-2 (1-2 in the ACC)--continuing the best start in the program's history.
"What can you really say?" said a smiling Duke head coach Beth Bozman. "It was just a great day for Duke hockey."
The Blue Devils knew they were good enough to win, said Bozman, but Duke's dominance over the Tar Heels (12-2, 2-1 in the ACC) might have even taken the veteran coach a little by surprise.
"Did I ever imagine it was going to be 5-0?" she asked. "Would anybody? And the kids probably did not either, but they were pretty motivated to play today and they came to play. It was great." The last Blue Devil victory against the Tar Heels was a 2-1 win in 1981, when Jimmy Carter was still in office and no one on the current Duke roster had been born yet.
"A fantastic game, it really was," said President Nan Keohane, who was in attendance along with her husband, Political Science Professor Robert Keohane. "[The Duke players] were so fired up. They are so good. They had so much passion. That was very exciting, great to watch them play. We are very proud of this program right now."
Even though all of the Blue Devil players and coaches have repeatedly downplayed the streak this season, it was clear that they are happy the monkey on their backs is off and vanquished.
"It is nice that a reporter will never ask again about the streak," said senior captain Kim Gogola. Bozman echoed her players' sentiments.
"We are all happy it is over--and over in pretty good fashion," Bozman said.
The win also continues to validate the decision to hire Bozman, as the program appears to be finally breaking into the top rung of college field hockey after wins last week against ACC rivals and perennial national title contenders No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 4 Maryland.
"Duke comes in last year at No. 9, and most of these kids, the only ACC team they have ever beaten was Virginia," Bozman said. "Now look at what we have done. It is phenomenal."
Bozman and her squad, currently ranked third in the latest National Field Hockey Coaches Association Poll, are now in a position to possibly receive the team's first top ranking in program history. Saturday's result was the opposite of the teams' first meeting several weeks ago in Chapel Hill, a 4-1 North Carolina victory, which left a large impression on Duke, Bozman said.
"We are a vastly different team than we were a couple weeks ago" she said. "That was a big eye opener for us. We did not secure a plan for 70 minutes. We had a couple weak spots in the lineup. You make a mistake against a team like North Carolina, and they are really going to punish you. And we got punished bad. Our players came back with a new mentality to fix things and elevate their level of play to their ability."
The game was scoreless for almost the entire first half as both teams went back and forth until a North Carolina defender batted a ball down that appeared to be headed for a score while she stood in front of the cage. The Tar Heel was whistled for an infraction, and Duke was awarded a penalty stroke, leading to a protest from the UNC bench. North Carolina coach Karen Shelton argued that the shot, if untouched, would have missed the net; if Shelton was correct, Duke should have received only a penalty corner.
The call stood up, however, and Duke's Johanna Bischof finished off the stroke, as she directed a hard, knee-high shot to the left portion of the goal, just missing Tar Heel goalie Katy Tran's downward-reaching arm.
Still, the game's outcome was very much in doubt for most of the second half. The score became 2-0 when Duke's Nicole Dudek outmuscled several North Carolina defenders in front of the Tar Heel goal and put teammate Kim Van Kirk's rebound past Tran. From there both teams had chances to score--Duke had 16 shots on the day to North Carolina's 11--but it was the Blue Devils who took advantage of their opportunities.
Duke sophomore Katie Grant and senior Jessica Fluck essentially put the game out of reach when they scored back-to-back goals within 27 seconds of each other seven minutes after Dudek's goal.
Junior Gracie Sorbello made it 5-0 with roughly four minutes remaining, slamming a shot past Tran on a penalty corner.
In addition, Duke's goalie, sophomore Christy Morgan, recorded four saves in the game and her sixth shutout of the season, all of which left the Blue Devils ecstatic about their performance.
"We put it all together," Van Kirk said. "We put 70 minutes together. The results show for themselves. It is nice to get rid of this streak that is talked about all the time. It was such a good feeling, everyone was playing with heart, playing together, playing to win. We just knew if we played together, we would come out and we'd win. We all had each other's backs today."
Gogola had a similar assessment, although she put it a little differently.
"Every single person on our team played out of their heads," Gogola said.
Sunday afternoon, Duke narrowly defeated visitor William & Mary 3-2 at Williams Field.
The Blue Devils struggled at times, trailing 1-0 and 2-1 at different points in the game, but eventually came from behind to win, as Sorbello slammed home the game winner off a penalty corner with ten minutes left in the game.
The Tribe scored both of its goals on penalty strokes after the Blue Devils were whistled for the same type of infraction as the Tar Heels committed on Saturday. Duke, like North Carolina, disputed the calls unsuccessfully.
The Blue Devils were happy to escape with a win, said Bozman and senior Suzanna Simpson, who assisted Lindsay Shaw midway through the second half to even the score at 2-2.
"It was awful," Bozman said. "You are going to have one of these [types of games], and a lot of times you do not end up on the winning side. It is good to get though a game like this."
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