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Blue Devils remain in Final Four form

A pair of games in as many days resulted in two victories for the fourth-ranked field hockey team. The Blue Devils (7-1) defeated a scrappy James Madison squad (1-6) 4-1 Saturday and returned to Williams Field Sunday to defeat No. 7 Old Dominion (3-3) in a hard-fought game in which Duke prevailed, 4-2.

Despite the two goal margin of victory against an Old Dominion squad characterized by its stingy defense, head coach Beth Bozman said her team clearly outplayed the Lady Monarchs.

“[I did not] think it really needed to be this close,” Bozman said.

Indicative of the lopsided play, Duke outshot Old Dominion 28-5, but the Lady Monarch backs held strong against the offensive onslaught. Senior Gracie Sorbello’s powerful shot, however, proved too potent.

Sorbello, who controlled both sides of the turf, scored three times, the last of which sealed the victory for the Blue Devils. With only 1:23 remaining in the game and Duke maintaining a one-goal margin, Sorbello scored off a penalty corner.

The Duke senior was also the difference maker for the Blue Devils in the first half. Sorbello found the net twice on corners at the end of the period to give Duke a 3-2 halftime advantage.

In the first half, junior forward Katie Grant notched her team-leading 10th goal of the season four minutes into the first half, but the tally did not keep the Blue Devils ahead for long. Although Duke dominated much of the early play, a pair of tough saves by Old Dominion goalkeeper Mary Cate Gordon and an inability to capitalize on downfield presence mitigated Duke’s chance to blow the game open early.

Duke pressed early but also made a few mistakes to allow Old Dominion to take the lead.

“When you play teams of Old Dominion’s caliber and you make mistakes, this is just going to happen,” Bozman said.

Duke was playing its second game in as many days, but came out emotionally charged, an energy matched by Old Dominion. Saturday the Blue Devils were flat at the start, but they were still able to move past a overmatched James Madison team 4-1.

In both games, Duke’s offensive dominance was evident. The team outshot James Madison 32-3 and Old Dominion by a similar margin.

Like the Lady Monarchs, James Madison kept a lot of people in the circle, limiting the Blue Devils to four goals.

“We did what we needed to do, we took care of details, playing much stronger today,” Bozman said.

Beating top-10 teams in each of the past two weekends, Duke, after an early-season loss to No. 1 Michigan State, has regained the momentum that carried the team to the Final Four last season. At home last season against the Lady Monarchs the Blue Devils initially proved their ability to make a run deep in the NCAA Tournament with an 8-2 victory.

The Blue Devils will again be challenged next weekend against rival North Carolina, another ranked ACC opponent.

“Every weekend is big, and [this weekend] is getting us all ready for our game next weekend against North Carolina, which is just a huge game for us,” Bozman said.

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