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Duke field hockey falls to UConn in national title game

Seeking its first NCAA title in program history, the Blue Devils fell 2-0 to Connecticut in Sunday's national championship game.
Seeking its first NCAA title in program history, the Blue Devils fell 2-0 to Connecticut in Sunday's national championship game.

NORFOLK, Va.—Duke suffered its first loss to Connecticut in program history in the game that mattered the most.

Taking on the Huskies and seeking their first-ever national title, the fourth-seeded Blue Devils fell 2-0 at the L.R. Hill Sports Complex in Norfolk, Va. Capitalizing on two goals at the end of the first half, Connecticut took home its third national championship.

“We have to execute in a corner situation against a team like Connecticut,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “We didn’t execute on our opportunities, which were the attack penalty corners.”

Despite Duke claiming four of the first five penalty corners in the game, the Huskies were the first to score. After a shot was deflected off Duke goalkeeper Lauren Blazing, Connecticut's Chloe Hunnable capitalized on the loose ball, tapping in her 23rd goal of the season to put the Huskies up 1-0. Six minutes later, Connecticut scored again, this time with Hunnable assisting teammate Mckenzie Townsend to double its advantage heading into the locker room.

At halftime, the teams had an even four shots and four corners each. Huskie senior goalkeeper Sarah Mansfield stopped Duke's offense with four saves in the first half and finished the day with five.

“We know [Connecticut’s] corner attack is very good, and we take a lot of pride in our defensive corners,” Bustin said.

Beginning the second half, Duke attempted to get on the scoreboard with two corners just five minutes into the half. Two crucial saves by Blazing 10 minutes later kept the Huskies from putting the game out of reach, but Connecticut’s defensive stops on the other end of the field left the score unchanged.

“We talked about starting the second half thinking the score is 0-0,” Hunnable said. “You can’t ever relax—it’s a national championship game.”

Duke was unable to convert any of its ten shots or its ten corners into goals. Bustin attributed this to a combination of Duke’s failure to execute and UConn’s strong defensive pressure keeping the Blue Devils off the scoreboard.

“In the three games previous to this, we scored 13 goals, so we had no doubt that we could score those goals,” Duke senior forward Emmie Le Marchand said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen — they have a fantastic goalkeeper and a very strong defense, but we believed until that last whistle.”

Duke's offense continued to fight as time wore down, notching six corners in the second half to Connecticut's two. Near misses on back-to-back corners in the final two minutes made up Duke's final attacking effort. From that point on, The Huskies maintained possession to finish the game and claim the 2013 NCAA championship.

“It’s been a good journey,” Bustin said.

After the game, the Blue Devil squad received runner-up recognition, and seniors Emmie Le Marchand and Paula Heimbach and sophomore Hannah Barreca were named to the 2013 All-Tournament Team.

“It was an unbelievable season for us, and obviously in the locker room right now we’re pretty heartbroken, but you won’t ever beat the love our team has for each other,” Le Marchand said. “We love playing hockey… The journey we’ve been on this season, none of us will ever forget it, because it was fantastic, and the journey getting here was unbelievable.”

The championship matchup marked the final game for seven Duke seniors and one graduate student.

“A huge amount of credit obviously for everything that’s been accomplished this season goes to our seniors,” Blazing said. “With the culture that these seniors have built, and that our coaches have built, and that we’ve bought into, I think that we’re ready to go for next year, starting now.”


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