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Blue Devils miss chance to reach NCAA tourney

Junior midfielder Tara Jennings scored Duke’s only goal of the game in the 47th minute off a penalty corner.
Junior midfielder Tara Jennings scored Duke’s only goal of the game in the 47th minute off a penalty corner.

There was a lot on the line Saturday afternoon at Jack Katz Stadium.

The Blue Devils played their final regular season game, and they saw their hopes of earning a guaranteed spot in the NCAA Tournament crushed by Virginia in a 2-1 loss.

The team needed to achieve a .500 record Saturday in order to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. The loss to No. 3 Virginia (15-2, 3-2 in the ACC) forces No. 18 Duke (8-10, 0-5) to win the upcoming ACC tournament in order to continue its season.

The stat sheet for the first half would seem to show that it was an uninteresting game—with the two teams combining for only two shots—but the play on the field proved the contrary. Both teams showed an impressive display of defense, with Nelson making a great save in the 23rd minute to keep the game scoreless going into halftime.

“We came back together right before we [re]started the game,” senior Sarah Schoffstall said. “The team was on the field and we just said how good it felt. It felt like the game was really serene. We felt like everything was clicking.”

Serene, perhaps, like the calm before the storm. While the first half was lacking offensively, the second half was 35 minutes of high intensity and scoring opportunities. Virginia scored off a penalty corner in the opening minutes of the second half, and Duke capitalized on one of its penalty corners in the 47th minute, when junior Tara Jennings buried a shot to tie the game at one.

The intense play turned physical in the second period—senior Susan Ferger had to go off the field to change due to blood on her jersey.

“It just shows that it was a really intense game,” Ferger said. “Hard-fought, blood and all.”

The Cavaliers took the lead for good from a rebound shot with only two minutes remaining in the game. The Blue Devils were unable to make up the one-point deficit.

Though the outcome was not in the Blue Devils’ favor, the team statistically played a better game than the Cavaliers did, especially in the second half. Duke outshot the Cavaliers 10-8 after intermission and also led in penalty corner opportunities 8-7.

“I think certainly in the second half we outplayed them,” head coach Beth Bozman said. “I thought there were a couple of unfortunate calls that hurt us but I think we played great hockey. We couldn’t hit any more posts or have worse luck about getting in the goal but we certainly had our chances. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t win this one, because it felt like it would have been a deserved win.”

Duke won’t have to wait long for a chance at redemption. The team faces off against Virginia Thursday in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament. It could be the seniors’ last game—or the match that extends the season possibly towards the NCAA Tournament.

And the Blue Devils will hold nothing back this time around.

“Everything, all out,” Schoffstall said. “There’s no other option. Those are the expectations.”

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