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Duke field hockey wins another nail-biter against William & Mary

For the second straight week, Duke needed some late-game heroics to come away with a one-goal victory.

Following a 3-2 double-overtime victory against Rutgers, No. 9 Duke returned home and faced another tough unranked opponent. William & Mary posed a challenge for the Blue Devils, but Duke ultimately came away with a 2-1 victory Friday night at Jack Katz Field.

The contest was tight throughout, but a goal from senior forward McKay Ross in the 62nd minute was enough to put the Blue Devils over the top.

"After that goal I think it gave them the confidence that we can put it in and that we are putting the pressure on them," Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. "We just need now to take care of the ball, keep possession, protect the center."

The Blue Devils (4-1) put the pressure on William & Mary (2-3) to open the contest, striking first when freshman forward Heather Morris converted on a shot from 10 yards out. The goal was Morris' fourth of the year, which ties her with Emmie Le Marchand for the team lead.

“I felt really great, we’ve been working to connect the forwards and the midfielders," Morris said. "We had a little bit of a rough day today but I still felt connected and I felt like we did a really good job of sticking with it."

Duke had no shortage of opportunities in the first half, out-shooting the Tribe 7-1 in the opening period.

When the teams emerged from the locker room, it was William & Mary that was the aggressor. Senior forward Taylor Hodge netted the equalizer in the 41st minute as the Tribe continued to put pressure on the Blue Devils.

William & Mary took a timeout minutes later, which provided Duke with the opportunity to make a crucial adjustment.

“I was on the verge of calling our own timeout, so that was perfect and just to settle down and really make the ball work from sideline to sideline” Bustin said, “We were trying to push the ball up the middle too much and too often, and I think if we got the ball moving with possession from sideline to sideline, we keep possession and we get them running a bit more.”

The Blue Devils executed their gameplan out of the timeout and seized back the momentum. Duke had a number of chances in the second half, but it wasn't until midfielder Devon Gagliardi streaked down the left side and put a cross into the middle while the goalie was sprawled on the ground recovering from another save. This left a wide-open goal for Ross, who was able to convert the game-winner for her first goal of the season.

“I think everyone just wanted to come out with some power, and really stick it to them. It was unfortunate it turned out to be 1-1 and then we ended up putting one in.” Ross said. “But I think we gained the momentum right after halftime to keep control in our half for a good majority of the time and it paid off.”

The Blue Devils have a quick turnaround this weekend before hosting Old Dominion Sunday at 1 p.m. Despite the challenge that William & Mary posed for Duke, Morris said that she is encouraged by her team's ability to find ways to win.

"We had a good week leading up and hopefully it’ll be better for [Old Dominion],” Morris said.

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