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Blue Devil field hockey cruises to 2-0 victory against California

After a 3-0 win against William and Mary last weekend, Duke returned to Williams Field in Durham, N.C., and put on a show, maintaining a perfect record in nonconference play.

The No. 5 Blue Devils defeated California 2-0 in a match that was all-Duke right from the start. The Golden Bears struggled offensively throughout the duration of the game, only registering seven shots to the Blue Devils’ 15. Senior forward Jessica Buttinger was a standout, assisting on one of Duke’s goals and scoring the other.

The first goal came just 1:36 into the match when Buttinger found forward Heather Morris, and the Blue Devils never looked back.

“We had been working, again off our post, getting ready and so I just kind of flung the ball over there and [Morris] was ready with her stick down and she just put the ball in the net,” Buttinger said. “It was awesome to see our hard work paying off.”

California (5-4) needed strong play from defender Carla Goni and the rest of its back line to stop Duke (8-1) from running up the score. The Golden Bears also recorded one more save than the Blue Devils' five despite lacking offensively, preventing Duke from scoring after Buttinger added the second goal of the game with 15 minutes left in the first half.

But California's defensive effort near the end of the game was not nearly enough to overcome the Blue Devils' strong effort, one that Buttinger attributed to communication.

“I would say that this week we really focused on, coming off of last weekend, making connections between the lines—from defense to midfield to forward really connecting,” Buttinger said.

Duke was able to successfully prevent all five of California’s corner penalty kicks due to effective communication between the backfield and the midfield, specifically. By contrast, all six of the Blue Devil penalty corners, shot by Buttinger, were blocked by the Golden Bears’ midfield and goalkeeper Courtne Hendrickson saw a lot of pressure being put on California's defense.

Duke’s high energy and smart decisions on the field were a key factor to the win.

“We wanted to continue to do some of the great attacking stuff that we did last weekend," head coach Pam Bustin said. "We wanted to sustain a high level of energy. Energy just to stay alert within the game and keep our possession going. Tonight we made great adjustments to keep that going.”

After suffering their first loss of the season last week at home against Virginia, Buttinger and the rest of the Blue Devil seniors were definitely fired up for Friday's contest, especially with a rare one-game weekend on tap.

Buttinger spearheaded the energetic start and her tenacity made her stand out Friday, much like it has throughout her time in Durham.

“[She’s] awesome. The kid wants to score. She wants to make something happen. She’ll do anything for the group and she’ll do anything for the game,” Bustin said. “Having four years now and having her leadership there has been great.”

Leading by example and attacking on the field have been the main things that have made the Canada Under-21 National Team member such a great leader.

And after seeing how important communication was to last year's national runner-up squad that lost eight key players in the offseason, she has also been sure to be more vocal and emphasize communication with her younger teammates.

“I’ve always led by example and tried to lay it all on the field and so I will say that hasn’t really changed throughout, but just being a senior now it’s just about, again, keeping up the communication amongst everyone on the team,” Buttinger said.

The Blue Devils will need Buttinger's leadership and experience to come through again when they travel to Louisville to take on the Cardinals Friday at 6 p.m. Duke will be looking to get above .500 in conference play after splitting its first two ACC games of the season.

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