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Duke falls short of title bid

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Another year, another disappointing outcome to the Blue Devils' final game.

For the third season in a row, Duke's players were forced to tearfully pack up their equipment and watch from the sidelines as another team celebrated a victory in the NCAA Field Hockey Championships. The third-seeded Blue Devils (18-5) were shut out by first-seeded Maryland, 1-0, in the finals of the NCAA Tournament. It was the first 1-0 championship game in tournament history.

After avenging its last two championship game loses with a 3-2 win over second-seeded Wake Forest Friday night, Duke's players entered Sunday afternoon's game confident that they would finally bring the National Championship trophy home to Durham. Yet despite dominating the majority of the game, the Blue Devils were held back by a relentless Terrapin defense that held them scoreless for the second time this season.

For Bozman, the loss was the fifth of her career in the National Championship game and her third as coach of the Blue Devils. Bozman said this title-game loss was particularly painful because it was the first time that she felt her team deserved to win.

"They're all very tough, but this one is especially tough," she said. "I think anyone looking at the game, really watching the 70 minutes, would probably be surprised if they looked at the score. As much as it is a game of capitalizing opportunities, it is also a game of errors. Errors are the difference between championships and second place, and that's what it was today."

Maryland (23-2) scored the only goal of the game on a bizarre turn of events 8:34 into the first half. After losing possession in the offensive zone, forward Katie Grant attempted to prevent the Terrapins from clearing the ball by using her stick to try to block the clearance pass. Instead, the ball hit awkwardly off of Grant's stick and flew in the air towards Duke's goal.

It landed 25 yards away from the Blue Devil cage and next to Terrapin leading scorer Jackie Ciconte. The senior rushed past the Blue Devils defense before sneaking what she called a "lucky" shot past goalie Christy Morgan.

"We had a communication breakdown and they got numbers up on us," Bozman said. "Unfortunately, that one mistake determined the championship."

Despite giving up the goal, Duke never stopped its attack, pressuring the Terrapins for the remainder of the contest. After failing to score in the first twenty-five minutes of the second half, Bozman called a timeout to try to mount one last charge in the final ten minutes of the game.

"We just really wanted to move the ball forward," Bozman said. "We weren't worried about transferring the ball, we weren't worried about hitting a safety and then organizing our attack-we were just trying to get into our attacking third. And we did that, I think. We had a number of opportunities we just couldn't finish."

Though the Blue Devils' broke the Maryland defense on several occasions and forced them to give up corners and fouls, the Terrapins never caved. Both Grant and Nicole Dudek were hounded by Maryland the entire game and could not pass the ball effectively as Duke's offense was held without a shot on goal following the timeout.

"Whenever I got the ball everything I saw was white," Grant said. "We weren't working off each other like we did on Friday and that was kind of the difference, I think."

In the national semifinals Friday night against Wake Forest, the Blue Devils utilized a three-goal run during a nine-minute stretch in the second half to knock off the second-seeded and three-time defending champion Demon Deacons (21-2), 3-2.

Down 1-0 at halftime, Duke came out of the intermission with renewed intensity and began to take advantage of the fast turf field. After the Blue Devils received a corner 14 minutes into the second half, Hilary Linton took the inbounds pass at the top of the circle and sent a shot in the direction of Grant. The Leighton, Pa. native redirected the ball into the right corner of the goal, tying the game and shifting momentum toward the Blue Devils.

Less than eight minutes later Duke struck again as Dudek took a pass from Grant and flicked it into the top left corner of the cage to give the Blue Devils their first lead of the game. Dudek scored once more a minute later off assists from Grant and Marian Dickinson to give Duke an insurmountable 3-1 advantage.

Given the teams' previous NCAA Tournament history, the semifinal win was especially sweet for the Blue Devils.

"After two tournaments losing to Wake Forrest and just knowing the level they play, it's great to beat them," Bozman said Friday. "It speaks volumes for our team because we know we had to play, and it was really going to be a battle, and it was. I couldn't be prouder of this group."

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