The Blue Devils faced arguably their toughest competition of the season this weekend, dropping two games by a goal apiece.
Duke lost to Penn State 2-1 Saturday and Old Dominion 3-2 in double overtime Sunday.
Although the No. 6 Blue Devils (5-3) dominated play in the first half against the Nittany Lions, swarming the ball and racking up penalty corners and scoring chances, No. 7 Penn State (5-3) went into the locker room up 2-0 thanks to goals from Lauren Purvis and the team’s leading scorer, Kelsey Amy.
Duke’s second-half comeback effort looked promising after senior Tara Jennings scored on a penalty corner with 28 minutes left to play, but the Nittany Lion defense quickly clamped down and ended the Blue Devils’ hopes of rallying for a second goal and a potential victory. Duke could not take advantage of earning one more penalty corner than Penn State and taking 15 shots to the Nittany Lions’ nine. Two second-half yellow cards slowed the team’s offensive push at crucial moments in a game that remained competitive to the final whistle.
“We played a great game today,” senior Tara Jennings said. “We were as close as close can be. We need to take the good things that we did today, which there were a lot of, and take that to tomorrow’s game. We played a great game today and if we can do that and just capitalize on the chances that we got, we’ll be in good shape.”
Duke had little time to dwell on the tough loss before facing No. 2 Old Dominion (8-0) Sunday. The Lady Monarchs stepped onto Williams Field poised to take the top spot in the national polls after knocking off No. 1 North Carolina Friday.
Sunday’s game started off as a struggle in the midfield for possession, with both teams failing to produce scoring opportunities early. Despite senior goalkeeper Samantha Nelson’s stellar first-half play, Old Dominion capitalized on sloppy Duke passing and netted a goal with six minutes left in the half.
The Blue Devils came out of the break and responded with a goal after just seven minutes of play. Midfielder Emmie Le Marchand scored her sixth goal of the season on a deflection inside Old Dominion’s defensive circle, but the Lady Monarchs responded just over a minute later with another goal of their own.
Le Marchand once again provided the response for the Blue Devils, recording her second goal of the game with just over fourteen minutes left. Duke appeared to have the physical advantage as the half wore on, most likely due to head coach Pam Bustin’s aggressive use of substitutions, which saw seven different players see minutes off the bench compared to just two for the Lady Monarchs. The Blue Devils could not take advantage of late scoring opportunities, though, and the game went into sudden-death overtime.
The fast-paced first extra period ended with the score still even at two apiece, and the second overtime period began in much the same fashion. The score remained level until, with just six minutes left to play, Old Dominion capitalized on a scramble in front of Duke’s goal that resulted in a wide open shot and a victory for the Lady Monarchs.
“It was nobody’s mistake, it was nobody’s fault,” Bustin said of Old Dominion’s game-winning goal. “A good team ended up scoring at the end. It could have gone either way.”
Despite dropping two important games this weekend, Bustin and her team seemed confident about their performance and their prospects for the rest of the season.
“The first thing that we said after this game was that this is the level that we want to play at with every team and I think we’re just determined not to lose another game throughout the season,” Samantha Nelson said. “I think we’ve never been more confident in our ability to win a national championship.”
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