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Duke field hockey falls to reigning champs

In a strong defensive performance, Duke held Maryland—the sixth highest-scoring team in the country—to just two goals.

The Blue Devils’ inability to convert on their offensive opportunities, however, doomed them to a 2-0 loss to the reigning national champions in College Park, Md. The defeat marks Duke’s fourth straight loss in the ACC, in which all six field hockey programs are ranked in the top 25 of the nation.

“The ACC is the top conference in the country, and every time we have a game it’s going to be very competitive and a very high level of field hockey,” Blue Devil head coach Pam Bustin said. “We really enjoy playing that level of game. Today’s game was really fun and of course was high intensity for the full 70 minutes.”

No. 24 Duke (5-8, 0-4 in the ACC) limited the No. 5 Terrapins (9-3, 3-1), who average 17.7 shots per game, to just seven shots on the day. Both teams earned four penalty corners.

“They have a lot of speed and some very dangerous forwards,” Bustin said. “Their scoring ability is quite high. We had to really take care of cutting down their attacking runs and attacking opportunities, and we really did a great job of that.”

The contest was scoreless for the first 20 minutes, which featured little action near the goal. In the 22nd minute, Maryland junior Jill Witmer ended the scoring drought off an assist from sophomore Maxine Fluharty.

A few minutes later, a shot by Blue Devil junior Brenna Rescigno appeared to even the score at one, but the referees called it back.

“We had some unfortunate luck with some calls,” Bustin said. “We probably scored a goal that wasn’t recorded today.”

In the second half, Duke had two scoring opportunities off penalty corners but could not capitalize. Among these opportunities was a shot by junior Grace Christus that sailed just over the goal. Aside from penalty corners, the Blue Devils struggled to generate quality looks on offense.

“We just didn’t put enough attacking pressure on them,” Bustin said. “We had four corners, and I think we could have executed them a bit better, and I think we could have created some more attacking opportunities in the regular field of play.”

With just over five minutes left in regulation, Terrapin junior Ali McEvoy found the back of the net off a penalty corner to seal Maryland’s 2-0 victory.

Duke has three upcoming non-conference matchups before it closes out the regular season against its final ACC foe, Virginia. The Blue Devils’ defensive structure was a positive that they can take away from Saturday’s game as they move into the home stretch of their season.

“Our defensive unit played great,” Bustin said. “Our backfield organization was fantastic.”

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