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Duke field hockey tops Virginia to advance in ACC tournament

Duke has cleared its first hurdle in the ACC tournament, but the team now advances to play goliath—in the form of a Terrapin.

The fourth-seeded Blue Devils downed the fifth seed, Virginia, 2-1 Thursday afternoon at the Boston College Field Hockey Complex. No. 8 Duke will now face top-seeded and top-ranked Maryland Friday at 1 p.m. The Terrapins knocked the Blue Devils out of the ACC tournament last year with a 2-1 first round win.

“We have to be sharp mentally and ready to move physically,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “Maryland is deep, and they have some very talented players on the field and on their bench, so they never have a letdown.”

The Blue Devils (14-5, 3-3 in the ACC) built an early lead when senior forward Emmie Le Marchand scored her 12th goal of the season off a penalty corner. The team is now 12-0 this season when it scores the first goal of a match.

A first half lead for Duke provided early momentum that flowed to the defensive end of the field. Despite being outshot by the Cavaliers (15-5, 3-3) 5-2 in the first half, the Blue Devil defense kept the ball out of the cage while fending off four penalty corners.

“We have been working hard to come out fast,” Le Marchand said. “It was a huge confidence boost to get an early goal like that.”

Virginia’s lone score came in the 30th minute, when the ACC’s leading scorer Elly Buckley, assisted forward Caleigh Foust to tie the game 1-1. Neither team could score for the remaining minutes of the half, setting the stage for a second half that would decide the outcome of the game.

After halftime, the Blue Devils once again seized the momentum when their offensive attack struck just five minutes into the second half.

Redshirt senior midfielder Devon Gagliardi took a pass from Le Marchand and shot it with the ball deflecting off Cavalier goalkeeper Jenny Johnstone and into the cage.

“We were confident going into the game that we were strong enough to beat them,” Le Marchand said. “When we got a lead—that is something that we were really fighting for. That motivated us, and we buckled down and did what we had to do to grind out the win.”

With a majority of the half still to be played, the defensive unit held off a pesky Virginia attack that had nine shots and attempted six penalty corners in the second half. Although Buckley took six shots on goal, she could not find the cage and was held scoreless.

Le Marchand had a chance to score her second goal of the game when Duke was awarded a penalty stroke in the 54th minute, but Johnstone made the save to hold the lead at one goal.

After allowing three goals off penalty corners in their final regular-season game against Maryland, the Blue Devils frustrated the Cavalier penalty-corner unit and denied them of a score.

“We have a very strong corner defensive unit,” Bustin said. “Last Saturday was a little odd and different as far as that is concerned. When we got the video and presented it to the team, they were appalled at themselves. We just had to make a few minor changes and stay a little bit more alert and on task with what each of the roles are.”

When the attack did break the Duke defensive lines, goalkeeper Lauren Blazing defended the cage with 11 saves. With 21:30 to play in the game, she made a diving stop that prevented a promising Cavalier shot from getting by her.

The Blue Devils will now face Maryland, a team that handed Duke a 5-1 beating on Nov. 2 in Durham.

“We have just been working really hard to figure out what we need to improve on,” Gagliardi said. “All of the girls have been watching a lot of video. We did play them recently, and that is to our advantage.”

The Terrapins, who had a bye in the first round of the tournament, are excelling in all facets of the game, leading the league in goals scored and sitting second behind North Carolina in goals against. Maryland has not lost an ACC game this season.

Despite Maryland’s accomplishments, Bustin is confident in the team’s chances, especially after Thursday’s win.

“For us, if we just keep our basic skills sharp and aggression where it was today, it will put us in a great position to win tomorrow,” she said.

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