Before Sunday’s game against Michigan State, Duke starting keeper Christie Morgan’s head was pounding. After the game, everyone’s head was hurting.
Duke (1-1) lost to Michigan State (2-0) 4-1 Sunday after dominating the stat sheet in nearly every category. The Blue Devils out-shot the Spartans 18-7, had an 11-1 advantage in penalty corners, and clearly won the battle of time of possession.
Although Duke’s failure to convert scoring chances hurt the team, what hampered the Blue Devils the most was Morgan’s absence. Before the game, Morgan was diagnosed with a concussion, and freshman Caitlin Williams was thrust into the starting lineup. Williams allowed the four scores on only seven shots.
“You put a kid in a no-win situation, that is what is going to happen,” head coach Beth Bozman said.
During their first two regular-season games the Blue Devils have struggled to put the ball in the net.
Against Louisville (0-2) in the first round of the Champions’ Challenge Saturday, Duke found itself pitted against a less talented team. Louisville, however, kept the game close with its collapsing defensive style, and despite a stagnant offense, the Blue Devils escaped with a 2-1 win.
After the weekend was over, Bozman was frustrated.
“We were saying to ourselves, ‘Someone just take the seal off the cage,’” Bozman said. “The ball was just not going in.”
Michigan State, one of the top teams in the country, hurt Duke with its counterattack. The first goal of the game was scored by Veerle Goudswaard on a breakaway just five minutes into the contest. Six minutes later, Goudswaard took off on another breakaway. This time she was fouled by Duke, which led to a Spartan penalty shot. Junior forward Annebet Beerman fired a rocket over Williams’ shoulder, and Michigan State took a 2-0 lead, which lasted until the end of the half.
If Bozman had inspirational words to say to her team at halftime, the talk did not make an impact. The second-half start was worse than the first half for Duke.
Less than one minute into the period, midfielder Jessica Miller pounded home a rebound off a shot from Beerman to give Michigan State a 3-0 lead. And only three minutes after the score, Goudswaard hurt the Blue Devils on yet another break away opportunity, scoring her second goal of the game to give the host team a 4-0 advantage.
Duke continued to press on offense, and Gracie Sorbello, Katie Grant, Cara-Lynn Lopresi and Amy Stopford all registered shots on goal during the game.
Grant scored the lone goal of the game for the Blue Devils, after Nicole Dudek dropped a pass off for the sophomore who finally found the back of the net. The anticlimactic score, coming with 12 minutes remaining, left Duke knowing that it was indeed possible to score against Michigan State keeper Christina Kirkaldy, who collected nine saves on the afternoon.
Against Wake Forest in the preseason scrimmage, and against Louisville Saturday, Duke did not look like the team from last year. Still, except for the inability to score, the Blue Devils controlled the game the way they did during their run to the Final Four.
“The only upside of the whole game was that we found our game,” Bozman said. “We dominated, and we lost.”
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