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Duke, Maryland battle for bigger cause

Sometimes even the most competitive of sporting events can provide forums to recognize bigger causes.

Saturday's matchup between No. 9 Duke and No. 1 Maryland in College Park, Md. at 1 p.m. is one of those opportunities.

In addition to Duke playing the top team in the nation on the road, the match is a "pink" game, which is meant to show both teams' desire to raise awareness for breast cancer. The Blue Devils (8-3, 1-2 in the ACC) and Terrapins (10-1, 3-0) became involved in the cause because of a unique connection between the two programs.

"Under Armour is the sponsor of our team and the sponsor of Maryland, so they picked our game to be a pink game," head coach Beth Bozman said. "We are playing for breast cancer and are very excited."

The teams will be wearing pink jerseys in honor of breast cancer awareness, a subject that hits close to home for senior forward Ashley Pultorak.

"I have a very good friend from home who plays for Maryland whose mother died from breast cancer," Pultorak said. "I know this will be a big game for her as it is for as well as for me as [her mother] was a big part of my life in high school."

Pultorak and her good friend, Maryland defender Ellen Ott, attended Perkiomen Valley High School and started on varsity field hockey together for four years. In their senior seasons, the pair led its team to an undefeated 19-0-1 season and a Pioneer Athletic Conference championship.

Despite attending rival schools and battling for the past few years in the ACC, Pultorak and Ott have maintained their strong relationship. The opportunity for Pultorak to not only play against a life-long friend, but to promote awareness for the disease that took her friend's mother has her especially excited for Saturday's game.

"It is definitely a little extra motivation to do what we can in some way to show support for breast cancer research," Pultorak said.

Pultotrak's teammates will all be behind her, supporting her throughout the game as she adds to the bonds of her long-lasting friendship.

Many players on the team share Pultorak's feelings of excitement to participate in the pink game. Most of the Blue Devils have also known women who have been diagnosed with the disease.

"We want to support anyone fighting the disease," junior co-captain Brooke Patterson said of the disease that more than 200,000 women are diagnosed with each year. "I'm sure we've all had a person in our lives that has been affected by breast cancer."

Nonetheless, Maryland will prove to be a difficult matchup for Duke. The Terrapins boast two reigning first-team all Americans, Katie O'Donnell and Susie Rowe. They are first and third in the ACC in scoring, respectively.

And, after all, playing for breast cancer awareness could inspire Duke to step up to the challenge of competing against the nation's top-ranked team.

"To be able to support something that is so close to heart is an honor to play for," Patterson said.


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