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Duke falls in double-overtime to North Carolina

Hopscotch Music Festival in Downtown Raleigh, September 2011. Chelsea Pieroni/The Chronicle
Hopscotch Music Festival in Downtown Raleigh, September 2011. Chelsea Pieroni/The Chronicle

Last weekend, Duke took on the nation’s No. 2 team, facing Old Dominion at home. A hard-fought effort resulted in heartbreak for the Blue Devils, who dropped a 1-0 decision in double overtime.

This week, with Old Dominion moving up to No. 1 in the national rankings, Duke got another shot at No. 2, this time at North Carolina. The result was also repeated—the Blue Devils lost by a goal in double overtime despite a valiant effort, especially on defense.

No. 9 Duke (5-4, 1-1 in the ACC) traveled to Chapel Hill Saturday and suffered a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Tar Heels (8-1, 1-0).

Still, head coach Pam Bustin was encouraged by her team’s play against top competition.

“If we had played terribly...then I’d be more concerned,” Bustin said. “But the fact that we are playing well—we’re going to highlight the positives of each of the kids’ performances.”

The positives for Duke Saturday were on defense. At the end of the first half, the Tar Heels had outshot the Blue Devils five to one and garnered two penalty corners to Duke’s zero, yet neither team made plays on offense and the game remained scoreless. The second half almost mirrored the first, with little action near the goals, but the Blue Devils did manage increased offensive pressure after halftime. Each team racked up three penalty corners in the half and North Carolina edged Duke 4-2 in shots—but the score still remained tied at zero.

In the 65th minute, Duke senior Rhian Jones received a yellow card that forced her to sit out five minutes, and the Blue Devils took the field for the start of the first fifteen-minute overtime down a player. Because field hockey overtimes are played with only seven players as opposed to the usual 11, the loss of a player for the overtime period looms especially large. But Duke’s defense held strong, despite North Carolina’s player advantage, and the Tar Heels were unable to capitalize before Jones was eligible to re-enter.

Jones returned to the field after her five-minute penalty, and nearly scored after breaking through the North Carolina defense. Although the senior did not convert, she and her teammates received another break in the 80th minute when Tar Heel junior Jacklyn Gaudioso Radvany was handed a yellow card of her own, leaving North Carolina shorthanded.

This time, it was the Tar Heels’ turn to fight off a Duke advantage, and they did so successfully through the end of the first overtime.

“It’s just about capitalizing on that one opportunity and when you get it, you just have to score,” goalie Samantha Nelson, who recorded five saves in the game, said.

For 85 minutes in steady rainfall, the game had been in a deadlock. Then, twenty-seven seconds into the second overtime period, with less than a minute still remaining on Radvany’s penalty, North Carolina senior Elizabeth Stephens got past the Blue Devil defense and shot on Nelson from close range. Nelson managed to block the shot, but Stephens recovered the rebound and buried it in the cage, giving her team a critical conference victory.

The loss continued Duke’s overtime woes, as the Blue Devils have won just once in four overtime contests this season.

““I think now, though,” Bustin said, “we have to question whether or not we are thinking differently when we’re in overtime.”

Although the Tar Heels were favored in both shots on goal and penalty corners, the possession time during the game was almost equal. Defense defined the entire game. Each team had a few good looks on goal, but neither was able to convert until Stephens’ shot in the second overtime.

“Playing No. 1 and No. 2 in the country back to back, if you can compete for over 70 minutes then you can only be proud,” Bustin said. “We are going to learn a lot from this game.”

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