Sometimes there is such a thing as too much drama. Coming off a two-week stretch that saw the Blue Devils set a school record by playing four consecutive overtime games, the team headed into one of the tougher tests of its ACC season, against No. 19 Maryland that had enjoyed a full week of rest.
The well-rested Terrapins proved too much for Duke to handle, as Maryland (9-2-0, 1-2-0 in the ACC) controlled the game en route to a 4-0 defeat of the Blue Devils at Koskinen Stadium Sunday.
“We obviously didn’t play nearly as well as we can, and we just didn’t work as hard as I think we can,” senior midfielder Elisabeth Redmond said. “Definitely the fact that we’ve played 110 minutes for four games straight is something that will help us down the road…but that definitely took a lot out of our legs.”
The Blue Devils (4-5-3, 0-2-1) also took the field with a severely reduced roster. Seven of Duke’s 24 players were unavailable for Sunday’s contest with injuries.
“We have a very, very thin squad, but that’s where we are. That’s who we are right now,” head coach Robbie Church said. “But this is the ACC. If you don’t prepare yourself, and you’re not ready to play, you’re going to get punished.”
On the offensive end, Maryland had a weapon that Duke could not match: sophomore forward Jasmyne Spencer, who possesses the speed and skill to turn even the tamest counterattack into a dangerous scoring effort. Spencer’s early attempts were thwarted by Duke goalie Tara Campbell, but Spencer gave Duke problems throughout the contest.
Maryland broke through on the scoreboard 10 minutes into the game, when freshman midfielder Danielle Hubka deked a defender just outside the goal box and ripped a wide-open shot into the far corner of the net, past a diving Campbell.
The Terrapins’ second goal, 13 minutes later, was a demonstration of outstanding patience by the Maryland attack. Junior midfielder Molly Dreska lined up even with Duke’s defense, but the pass intended to be played over her head was too low. Rather than letting the ball hit her in the back, Dreska actually ducked under the ball, and it fell perfectly at her feet right in front of the net to put Maryland up two.
A third goal by Spencer followed late in the first half.
Duke was able to penetrate into the Terrapins’ end of the field, but rarely managed to break free for open shot opportunities. After shooting on goal at a prolific pace this season, the Blue Devils shot just seven times in this contest.
Duke’s play picked up in the beginning of the second half, but the air was taken out of the Blue Devils when, with 28 minutes left in the game, midfielder Lynnea Pappas was carted off the field on a stretcher after she was sandwiched between two Maryland players. Pappas’s injury caused a 20-minute delay, and the game never resumed its pace.
Sports Information Director Lindy Brown said Pappas was taken off on the stretcher for precautionary reasons only.
Church attributed the team’s struggles to a lack of preparation.
“It starts with the mentality…. We were not prepared,” he said. “That starts with me. I don’t think the coaching staff had them as prepared as we need to.”
Still, the bulk of Duke’s ACC schedule lies ahead, and Church’s focus is forward.
“It’s one game. That’s the best thing about it: It’s one game,” he said. “We played poorly one game, and it’s really been the only time all year…. So it’s important for us to make sure we understand it’s one game and push it aside.”
Four overtime games in 17 days might be dramatic indeed, but it is safe to say Church won’t put up with any drama in practice leading up to a critical matchup with No. 5 Florida State next weekend.
“I can guarantee Robbie’s going to be kicking our asses this week,” Redmond said. “We just need to mentally get back into it.”
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