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Duke field hockey upsets No. 1 UNC in dramatic shootout

It took 100 minutes and 22 saves, but with one stroke during the final shot of a shootout, Duke downed rival North Carolina for the first time since 2006—upsetting the country’s top team.

Behind redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing's career-high 22 saves and a key save in the shootout, the No. 13 Blue Devils did not give up a goal iafter halftime, edging the No. 1 Tar Heels 3-2 after overcoming a 2-0 deficit in their ACC opener Friday night at Henry Stadium.

"[Lauren] came to play tonight. She comes to play all the time,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “You also have to give credit to the defense. There were times that Lauren made incredible saves, but I think the team defense did a good job helping her read the shot. And they were there to help her clear it out when we made the save.”

Both teams scored on their first three strokes of the shootout, but Blazing came up with a key save on the fourth try, which would ultimately be the difference in the game. With the shootout tied at four, Duke (7-2, 1-0 in the ACC) had the last shot, and senior Paula Heimbach slid the ball into the cage giving the Blue Devils their first ACC win.

“I was really nervous but when [Blazing] made that save all the nerves went away, it was ours to take, so she definitely set the stage for it,” said Heimbach. “I barely saw it go in so I just turned and ran towards the team.”

In addition to a difficult shootout, Duke faced a challenge going into the first overtime with sophomore midfielder Aileen Johnson sidelined by a yellow card, giving North Carolina (8-1, 1-1) a 7-to-6 player advantage. But the Blue Devil defense held strong against the Tar Heel attack and would not give up a goal in either overtime. Blazing had two key back-to-back saves in the 78th and 79th minutes, and the Tar Heels had a disallowed goal with just 2:16 to play in the first overtime.

In the second overtime, both teams were on the attack and had good looks at the goal, but both defenses held strong. Duke graduate student Cherry Seaborn received a yellow card in the 95th minute, which would leave the Blue Devils outnumbered once again, this time for the remainder of the second overtime.

As time ran out, North Carolina was awarded a penalty corner, but could not convert. The Tar Heels were awarded a second penalty corner and managed to put the ball in the cage, yet the score was negated by a backswing penalty.

“We were a man down for a majority of both overtimes," said Bustin. "For us it was just a matter of keeping our possession and our composure and going for the attack when we had chance to go for the attack. I was so proud of the way they played the game tonight in their heads.—not to mention that they dug deep physically too. That is a lot of hockey.”

At the start of the match, North Carolina gained an early advantage scoring on a penalty stroke by senior midfielder Marta Malmberg and would add to their lead in the 29th minute when junior Samantha Travers scored off of a penalty corner.

But Duke would bounce back just two minutes later when redshirt senior Devon Gagliardi scored on a pass from junior forward Jessica Buttinger to bring the Blue Devils within one goal.

“I think in the beginning of the game, we were just a little too tight,” said Bustin. “We made a few errors, but fortunately it was early in the game so they knew they had time to get back on track and make a few corrections. We started clicking in the first half and just kept getting better. “

Both defenses came out in full force in the second half, as neither team scored for the first 33:45 of the period. The Tar Heels had a number of shots on the goal in the second half, but could not get by Blazing and the defense.

Duke mustered one last attack and got a clear shot on the goal in the half's final minutes. North Carolina goalkeeper Sassi Ammer could not secure the save and the ball trickled into the goal after being deflected by a Tar Heel player, sending the game into overtime.

Duke only registered 12 shots against the suffocating North Carolina defense, which is the backbone of the nation’s No. 1 team. The Blue Devils, however, managed to score on two of those shots, which came at crucial times in the game.

“They are always a great defense, but for us it was just a matter of trying to pass the ball... and when we did it tonight it was really effective, “ said Bustin. “We just need to make it a habit to get more people involved in the attack. That is how we capitalized on the shots that we had.”

Although the Blue Devils were out-shot by North Carolina 37-12, Blazing and the Duke defense allowed less than a tenth of the Tar Heel shots in the cage, and the redshirt sophomore made it to her first ever shootout.

“You just try and keep it simple," Blazing said. "You just do your job, get the ball and count on the forwards and attackers to score the goal.”

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