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No midseason scheduling conflicts for Duke field hockey in 2013

Goalkeeper Lauren Blazing was one of six players that Duke lost for a crucial 12-day stretch during last year's Pan-American Games.
Goalkeeper Lauren Blazing was one of six players that Duke lost for a crucial 12-day stretch during last year's Pan-American Games.

The biggest difference between Duke field hockey in 2012 and the upcoming 2013 season: there’s not a 12-day tournament right in the middle of the schedule.

Last season, the Blue Devils lost six of their players to the Junior Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Taking place from Sept. 10-22, the tournament offered North and South America’s best collegiate field hockey players the chance to play against top international competition.

“I think it was a big conflict,” senior defender Paula Heimbach said. “On the one hand [I was] so proud of these girls for going because that’s not something you pass up, but it did break up the season.”

Duke redshirt sophomore Lauren Blazing, sophomores Hannah Barreca and Aileen Johnson and junior Abby Beltrani represented the United States, and junior Jessica Buttinger and freshman Kendra Perrin were members of the Canadian team. Both the United States and Canada placed in the top three, qualifying both nations for the Junior World Cup, which took place from July 27-Aug. 4 in Monchengladbach, Germany.

After a 2-4 start to the 2012 season, Duke went 2-3 when forced to play five games in 12 days without six of its core players. Dropping key contests to Northwestern, Old Dominion and North Carolina during that stretch, the Blue Devils did not stand a significant chance to reach the postseason when their key contributors returned to the lineup.

Senior goaltender Ashley Camano minded the net in the absence of Blazing, relinquishing 15 goals. In 10 regular season games, Blazing surrendered only 21. Additionally, the Blue Devils had only one substitute on the bench, testing the stamina of its remaining players.

“We had moments, but it didn’t reach its full potential, which is always a bummer to look back on—what could have been,” senior midfielder Grace Christus said.

But instead of cutting into the heart of the Blue Devils’ schedule, much like the Pan-American Games did, the 2013 Junior World Cup served as a positive training experience in preparation for the upcoming season.

“Our hope is that their experience The biggest difference between Duke field hockey in 2012 and the upcoming 2013 season: there’s not a 12-day tournament right in the middle of the schedule.

Last season, the Blue Devils lost six of their players to the Junior Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. Taking place from Sept. 10-22, the tournament offered North and South America’s best collegiate field hockey players the chance to play against top international competition.

“I think it was a big conflict,” senior defender Paula Heimbach said. “On the one hand [I was] so proud of these girls for going because that’s not something you pass up, but it did break up the season.”

Duke redshirt sophomore Lauren Blazing, sophomores Hannah Barreca and Aileen Johnson and junior Abby Beltrani represented the United States, and junior Jessica Buttinger and freshman Kendra Perrin were members of the Canadian team. Both the United States and Canada placed in the top three, qualifying both nations for the Junior World Cup, which took place from July 27-Aug. 4 in Monchengladbach, Germany.

After a 2-4 start to the 2012 season, Duke went 2-3 when forced to play five games in 12 days without six of its core players. Dropping key contests to Northwestern, Old Dominion and North Carolina during that stretch, the Blue Devils did not stand a significant chance to reach the postseason when their key contributors returned to the lineup.

Senior goaltender Ashley Camano minded the net in the absence of Blazing, relinquishing 15 goals. In 10 regular season games, Blazing surrendered only 21. Additionally, the Blue Devils had only one substitute on the bench, testing the stamina of its remaining players.

“We had moments, but it didn’t reach its full potential, which is always a bummer to look back on—what could have been,” senior midfielder Grace Christus said.

But instead of cutting into the heart of the Blue Devils’ schedule, much like the Pan-American Games did, the 2013 Junior World Cup served as a positive training experience in preparation for the upcoming season.

“Our hope is that their experience not only playing in the tournament but the training camps that led up to it will benefit our team and their mentality,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “We now have more kids who can grasp a high-performance mentality, which is a huge asset of any coach.”

But when the players returned, Duke’s troubles were not mollified—in fact, its continued struggles on the field were amplified by problems off the field. The girls returning from the Pan-American Games had a hard time getting acclimated again with their teammates, which players said led to a lack of unity in the locker room.

“Nothing comes easily regarding girls and chemistry,” Christus said. “With a sport like field hockey you need everyone to be 100 percent mentally there and to understand each other on and off the field. It just didn’t click as much as it could have.”

Come November, with a 7-11 overall record and no wins in the ACC, the team knew that there needed to be serious changes going into 2013.

“Without the coaches even getting involved or discussing it, the team identified it,” Bustin said. “As soon as the season ended they really worked on building the unity of Duke field hockey all through spring and summer. It’s evident now that we are a team, and that’s something we don’t take for granted because we’ve been on the other side.”

An important building block to the Blue Devils’ unity is that the Junior World Cup was completed before the regular season began. Blazing, Johnson and Buttinger, who were all selected to their country’s respective national teams, along with Bustin, who served as an assistant coach for the United States, are all back in Durham and ready to start the season.

“Obviously it’s better timing to not have a tournament right in the middle of the season,” Blazing said. “It’s hard to be able to go in and out and transition into playing with other people. But this season we’re ready to go and we’re together.”

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