Retribution was in the air Thursday for Duke in the ACC tournament quarterfinal against Virginia. The Blue Devils lost their final regular season match to the same Cavalier squad five days earlier but were able to bring home a win when it mattered. This time, Duke defeated Virginia (8-12, 1-4 in the ACC) 3-2 to keep their season alive.
The third-seeded Blue Devils (12-6, 2-3) now advance to the ACC tournament semifinals Friday, where they will meet second-seeded Maryland (15-3, 4-1). The semifinal appearance will be Duke’s best ACC showing since the 2005 season.
“I think Virginia came out with a lot of energy last week,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “It caught us by surprise.... It was a frantic environment for us. We learned from that how to play in a frantic environment and maintain control.”
Thursday, the Blue Devils wasted little time in proving that they had learned from the previous matchup, as the squad played with high intensity from the opening whistle. Sophomore Emmie Le Marchand was the first to capitalize on a scoring opportunity, striking in the 18th minute off a deflection by junior Mary Nielson. The goal was Le Marchand’s 15th of the season and put Duke on the scoreboard, 1-0.
The Blue Devils’ early lead was soon erased by Virginia’s sophomore Elly Buckley, who answered Duke’s goal five minutes later by converting a penalty corner. The Blue Devil squad maintained its level of play, however, and took the lead again just before the half. With seven minutes remaining, freshman Jessica Buttinger netted a deflected penalty corner to make the score 2-1 as the teams headed into the locker room.
“I thought our team did a great job of staying on their tasks,” Bustin said. “They kept fighting and stayed in the moment. Whatever Virginia threw at us, we had to find a solution. It was a game of momentum.”
Duke came out strong again in the second half. Sophomore McKay Ross scored in the 46th minute, putting her team ahead by two goals. Buckley scored her second goal of the night three minutes later to bring the score within one, but it would not be enough to overcome the Blue Devil lead. Duke’s defense held the scored at 3-2 through the final whistle, earning the team its revenge over the Cavaliers.
“After our loss to them last week it woke us up,” senior Stefanie Fee said. “We realized that we didn’t have to change anything. We just had to capitalize on the things that we have been working on. We just knew that we had to come out and play our game.”
Even after Thursday’s positive showing, the Blue Devils are ready to continue their postseason playing as they have all year—one game at a time.
“We are here to do our job,” Fee said. “We plan on using [every game] as an opportunity to get better.”
The beginning of the ACC tournament bears a striking resemblance to the one six years ago, when the Blue Devils also defeated Virginia to earn a semifinal matchup with Maryland. Duke fell in that 2005 contest against the Terrapins but will get their chance to continue avenging past losses today at 3:30 p.m. in College Park, Md.
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