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Blue Devil field hockey takes down two-ranked opponents to remain undefeated

Aileen Johnson put Duke ahead early against Wake Forest with a converted penalty shot.
Aileen Johnson put Duke ahead early against Wake Forest with a converted penalty shot.

Despite losing eight veterans in the offseason, the Blue Devils showed the resilience of a veteran squad to grind out two road wins against ranked foes.

No. 4 Duke edged out No. 17 Old Dominion Friday 1-0 before taking down No. 10 Wake Forest 2-1 in a back-and-forth affair Sunday afternoon. With their latest triumphs, the Blue Devils have now shut out three of their opponents and notched two top-10 wins early in the season.

Taking the trip to Norfolk, Va., to battle the Monarchs (2-4), Duke displayed a strong defensive effort to hold off a team averaging 1.75 goals through its first four games. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Lauren Blazing notched the win with three saves, bringing her save percentage up to .905 for the season, and the Blue Devil backfield held Old Dominion to just six shots and six penalty corners throughout the game.

Offensively, Duke faced a similar battle against the Monarch backfield. Forcing just one shot in the first half of play, junior defender Hannah Barreca scored her first goal of the season off of a penalty corner, giving the Blue Devils the one-goal lead it would need for the rest of the game.

The last time Duke traveled to the L.R. Hill Sports Complex, it was to play in the National Championship against Connecticut in the final game of the 2013 season. Counting that visit and every other against the Monarchs, the Blue Devils hadn’t won in Norfolk since 2010.

After redemption at the L.R. Hill Sports Complex, Duke (6-0, 1-0 in the ACC) made the short trip from Durham to Winston-Salem, N.C., to open ACC competition against Wake Forest (4-2, 0-1). The Blue Devils handed the Demon Deacons their first loss at home with a last-minute goal from senior forward Jessica Buttinger.

Just after the start of the game, junior midfielder Aileen Johnson converted a penalty shot to give Duke an early 1-0 advantage. The Blue Devils held onto the advantage for 60 minutes of play, but Wake Forest’s second-leading scorer Jess Newak managed to edge a deflected shot past Blazing from four yards out, evening the score.

Buttinger saved the day for Duke three minutes later when she knocked a rebound past Demon Deacon goalkeeper Valerie Dahmen to score her third goal of the season and put her into first place for the squad’s scoring effort. The win preserved her team's undefeated record and marked its best start to a season since 1978.

The Blue Devils’ stalwart defensive efforts to start the season have given them the second-highest goals-against average with just 0.47 per game before this weekend’s competition. The squad has now won more games without a loss than any other team in the country except crosstown rival and top-ranked North Carolina.

Duke will now set its sights on another weekend of competition beginning with a home matchup against Virginia Friday at 6 p.m at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium.

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