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Duke nets road wins before home opener

Emmie Le Marchand notched three goals over the weekend, giving her a total of four on the year.
Emmie Le Marchand notched three goals over the weekend, giving her a total of four on the year.

The only thing more gratifying than stealing two wins on the road is winning one of those in shutout fashion. The Blue Devils leave their second weekend with a better mindset than the previous week, racing past Delaware 5-2 Saturday and blanking Drexel 2-0 Sunday.

After last weekend’s rocky start to the campaign, when No. 15 Duke (3-1) defeated No. 12 Ohio State but lost to unranked Indiana, the team put in a full week of practice in preparation for its next matchups.

“They were able to make the adjustments from last weekend and bring them into this weekend,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “We just stayed on task to what we set out to do. The kids just kept playing from the first whistle to the last whistle…and stayed with the game no matter what happened within the 70 minutes.”

In Saturday’s game against Delaware (2-1), the Blue Devils quickly set the tone with a flurry of offensive play. Outshooting its opponent 13-1 in the first period, Duke put up two unanswered goals before the halftime whistle. Although the Blue Hens scored two goals in the second half, they were unable to overcome the Blue Devils’ early lead.

Sophomore Emmie Le Merchand and freshman Jessica Buttinger each tallied two goals and were joined by junior Mary Neilson to bring their team to a 5-2 victory. This was also the highest scoring output by the team since defeating Boston University 5-1 in Oct. 2009.

“Jess has got some great hands,” Bustin said. “She does some great things in front of the goal cage. Whenever we have the opportunity to get her in that position we’re going to do it.”

Sunday’s match against No. 18 Drexel (3-1) required Duke to take advantage of every opportunity. The Blue Devils again commanded the flow of the game, outshooting the Dragons 13-1 in the first period, but were unable to convert any of these shots. The teams entered halftime with the score locked at 0-0.

Junior Devon Gagliardi put the Blue Devils on the board, netting a goal from 15 yards out. Le Merchand was quick to finish a cross from senior Tara Jennings just five minutes later, marking her fourth goal of the year. Senior goalkeeper Samantha Nelson saved three Drexel shots to keep the first shutout of the year alive. This 2-0 victory gave Nelson her 13th career shutout.

“They were both very good matches, just a little bit different,” Bustin said. “A team needs to be able to adapt to either type of game, to control the flow of either game. I think that our Duke team did that. We adjusted [Saturday] to what we needed to, and we dug down deep [Sunday] and we did what we had to.”

Duke will begin its four-game homestand against ACC rival Wake Forest Saturday Sept. 10. The Blue Devils have already proven their strength to the Demon Deacons, overpowering them 6-1 in a preseason victory.

“We’ve grown a lot in the last two weekends as a team,” Bustin said. “We’re learning a lot about ourselves. I think after another week of training and practice we’ll be right where we want to be for our home opener.”

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