Though her team had not yet lost a game, head coach Beth Bozman believed her third-ranked squad was not yet playing up to its ability this weekend.
But down 2-0 in the second half against No. 12 Iowa in Iowa City Sunday, the Blue Devils finally started playing the way Bozman had hoped.
Duke (4-0) rallied to win in overtime, 3-2, over the Hawkeyes (1-2), two days after rolling over unranked Kent State (0-4), 6-0, in a game also played on Iowa's home field.
"This is the fourth game in a row we haven't played to our ability," Bozman said. "It was an eye opener and a check-your-gut kind of game."
It was Duke's veterans who led the way to Sunday's victory. Senior Amy Stopford hammered home a deflected shot with four minutes remaining in regulation to even the score at two goals apiece, and junior goalie Caitlin Williams stopped an Iowa penalty corner chance with 10 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
In the extra period, senior Hilary Linton scored the only goal four minutes in, sending Duke back home with its fourth straight win to open the year.
Duke had a couple other opportunities in overtime, and the Blue Devils controlled the possession for the majority of the second half, Bozman said.
"We finally played like we were capable in the second half, and I'm very proud of the way we responded and got into our game," she said.
In the second half, Duke played smarter and more aggressive field hockey, stepping up its press and passing the ball more effectively. Before that, the young Blue Devil team had not moved the ball as effectively as Bozman would have liked, the coach said.
"We hadn't found our groove yet," Bozman said. "The things that we do so well we hadn't found yet, and we found it in the second half."
In Saturday's action, Duke rode Marian Dickinson's two goals to victory over Kent State. The Blue Devils outshot Kent State, 37-7, but Bozman felt her team was still not as sharp as it could be later in the season.
With an important matchup looming later this week against No. 2 Wake Forest-a team Duke beat in the 2005 NCAA semifinals-the comeback win over a talented Iowa team could pay dividends for the Blue Devils as they look toward league play.
"It's really important that we finally turned it around in the second half and showed ourselves what we are capable of doing," Bozman said. "The whole experience, coming from behind, turning the game around and winning a game like that will be good for us."
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