Despite a tough ACC rivalry loss to North Carolina Saturday, the Blue Devils were determined to avoid a sweep at home this weekend and overcame Richmond 2-0 in yesterday’s game at Jack Katz Stadium.
No. 13 Duke (5-5, 0-2 in the ACC) came off the 1-0 defeat to the No. 1 Tar Heels (8-0, 1-0) hoping to maintain the same intensity it displayed in the close game. Duke’s efforts proved successful, although head coach Beth Bozman felt the team’s level of play against the Spiders could not match that of Saturday’s game.
“I thought we played a phenomenal game of hockey [Saturday], and our goal was to come out and play with the same intensity,” Bozman said. “But we are playing a different opponent. I thought we were not quite as sharp and not playing at quite the same pace today. But we stuck to our passing game and took advantage of opportunities and won.”
From the first center pass in the game against Richmond (3-7), it was clear that Duke was the better team even without senior Susan Ferger, one of the Blue Devils’ leading scorers, who didn’t play due to a broken thumb. The offense saw sparks from junior Tara Jennings and freshman Emmie Le Marchand, as both players lit up the scoreboard. Le Marchand’s strike, assisted by fellow freshman Grace Christus, was her third goal of the year, making her the team’s scoring leader along with Ferger. Senior goalkeeper Samantha Nelson also had another impressive performance, notching her third shutout of the season by saving each of the five shots Richmond sent her way.
While the Blue Devils outclassed the Spiders, it was a different story against North Carolina. The long-standing rivalry reared its head, and the two talented teams played a fierce match.
“I think we’re two very even teams,” Bozman said. “I think because we’re so young, we’ve had difficulty sustaining that level of intensity and actually playing at that level. But we’ve been really working and sticking to this, and I think it all finally just came together for us [Saturday].”
The Blue Devil defense kept the impressive Tar Heel offense at bay until the 61st minute, when sophomore Caitlin Van Sickle turned a penalty corner into the game’s only goal. Nelson saved four North Carolina shots in the first half to keep the game close, but the Tar Heels—averaging 4.71 goals and 22.3 shots per game entering Saturday’s tilt—ultimately overcame the Blue Devils.
“We had a lot of possession time in the second half and couldn’t get the ball in the cage,” Bozman said. “[North Carolina] scored on a soft goal, you know. It’s doesn’t really matter ‘what if’ and ‘what could,’ just that we didn’t. Now we know next time we see them we’re going to have to finish.”
The Blue Devils will face powerhouses Boston College and Boston University next weekend. No. 12 Boston College is an important conference game for Duke. No. 11 Boston University, however, might be better than the Eagles after beating them September 10. The Blue Devils look forward to these matchups, ready to prove they are a team on the rise.
“I think [if] we play like we did yesterday, we’ll show we are a very, very talented, competitive team,” Bozman said.
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