Duke responds after slow 1st half

Midway through the first half Friday night, No. 5 Duke had nothing going on offense.

Virginia Tech struck quickly against the Blue Devils and dominated the possession game during that early stretch. The Hokies (4-6, 0-3 in the ACC) controlled their passing and secured most of the loose ground balls, keeping the game away from the usually explosive Duke offense.

Even so, the Blue Devils (8-1, 1-1) rallied back with a strong offensive showing to beat the visiting Hokies, 16-7, at Koskinen Stadium.

"We actually disrupted their offense at times and put the ball on the ground, but we didn't come up with the ball," head coach Kerstin Kimel said. "Getting loose balls, win the draw-that's your momentum in this game. We didn't do that as well in that opening stretch as I would have liked."

Virginia Tech's patience with the ball paid off as junior Jenna Reich was able to expose the Blue Devils' defense to find the back of the net three times on the night. She scored her first two goals, also the first goals of the game, in the opening 13 minutes.

Down 2-0, however, Duke freshman Christie Barnes took a shot that dribbled between the legs of Hokie goalkeeper Kari Morrison that inspired the run-and-gun Duke offense to find the stride that would carry them to victory.

Fourteen minutes in, Barnes niftily ducked under two defenders in front of the goal and took a shot. Virginia Tech's keeper got a piece of the ball but, even with a desperate dive, she could not stop it from inching across the net's threshold.

Barnes' goal provided the momentum the Blue Devils' attack needed to begin the offensive onslaught that ensued. Duke scored six more goals to end the first half ahead 7-3.

"Last year we prided ourselves really on coming out from the whistle and dominating teams," senior attacker Leigh Jester said. "[This time] we came out flat, but fortunately we picked it up and made a good run."

The Blue Devils' assault against Virginia Tech showed no signs of slowing down after halftime. The team that started the game completely flat was replaced by a team that was on fire offensively. Duke scored five goals within the first seven minutes of the period to open up an 11-goal lead. Two of those goals came from junior Caroline Cryer, who scored four on the night and leads the team with 32 this season.

Overall, Duke looked like a unified and organized squad, capitalizing on its strong chemistry on offense. Virginia Tech, on the other hand, looked much less cohesive with six of its seven goals recorded as unassisted efforts.

"We really know where to look for each other. We're comfortable with each other," Cryer said.

For Kimel, Friday's victory was bittersweet. She was happy about what she called her team's "flashes of brilliance," but she was not satisfied with the sloppy effort the team put forth to open up the contest.

With a challenging three-game road-trip coming up against No. 3 Virginia, No. 12 Notre Dame and No. 2 Northwestern, Kimel believes the team will need to find its groove early in each of those matches in order to win.

"I'm happy that we were able to respond when we were down two, but I would have liked a more decisive, well-played game by us," Kimel said. "I'm ready for us to come out and start a game hard and finish a game hard, playing at a really high level."


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