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Blue Devil field hockey faces Richmond in regular-season finale

The Blue Devils will look to the consistent production of senior Martine Chichizola Saturday against Richmond, looking to create momentum heading into postseason play. | Sanjeev Dasgupta
The Blue Devils will look to the consistent production of senior Martine Chichizola Saturday against Richmond, looking to create momentum heading into postseason play. | Sanjeev Dasgupta

After a tough loss to Syracuse last Saturday, Duke enters its final regular season game determined to finish strong.

The No. 7 Blue Devils will travel to Virginia to take on Richmond Saturday at 5 p.m. at Robins Stadium. This matchup will be only the fourth time the two teams have faced each other in the past decade.

“We’ve been using [this week] with a lot of energy and focus,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “It was important for us to get back out here on Sunday and get right back to our brand of hockey, so that’s what we’ve been working on.”

Duke (11-5, 2-4 in the ACC) is undefeated against the Spiders (9-8) in the past 10 years and hopes to add yet another year to that streak. Although Richmond has one final game against Davidson, the Blue Devils hope to be able to come away with a victory Saturday and use it as momentum heading into the upcoming ACC quarterfinals.

“We’re very grateful we have this game on Saturday because it gives us a chance to regroup and to perform our brand of hockey,” Bustin said. “ [Hopefully we will] feel good about coming away from a match because we’ve played our best and we’ve competed for the full minutes.”

The Blue Devils will look to the leadership of their seniors as their season starts to come to an end. The three seniors—Jessica Buttinger, Abby Beltrani and Martine Chichizola—have a combined 10 goals on the season, approximately one-third of the team’s total goals. Similarly, they have accounted for seven of Duke’s 22 assists on the year.

“The seniors…and especially this group… realize [the importance of these games] because they’ve gone the distance,” Bustin said. “They understand and they want to keep it going.”

Although Richmond may not be a consistent team in the Blue Devils' schedule, Duke has proven its strength against non-conference opponents time and time again, with a record of 9-1 outside of ACC play this year. Richmond, despite having only a 4-6 record against non-conference teams, will still command the Blue Devils' attention Saturday.

“We may not know their tendencies as much because we don’t play them every year, [but our mindsets are] definitely the same for every single game that we play,” Beltrani said. “We will approach [this] game just like every other game that we play.”

Senior Rebecca Barry is the Spiders' most potent offensive threat, registering three assists and a team-high eight goals on the season. Junior Amy Cooke is second on the team in points with three goals and a team-best four assists.

Chichizola will have a large presence on the field this weekend—she ranks among the team leaders in shots on goal percentage —0.533— and goals —three—and her consistent contributions will play a big role in the outcome of Saturday’s game. The midfielder stressed the importance of taking the right mindset onto the field against Richmond.

“Honestly, it’s all just about our attitude on the field,” Chichizola said. “We teach this attitude of treating every opponent as faceless…and we will just be going in for a fight.”

The Blue Devils will begin postseason play Nov. 6 with the ACC tournament, which Duke is hosting this season. The Blue Devils' quarterfinal matchup with No. 2 North Carolina has already been scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at Jack Katz Stadium.

But first, Duke hopes to take care of business against the Spiders before it can set its sights on a rematch with its Tobacco Road rival.

“It’s just putting everything on the line. For me, I always go with that attitude of no expectations,” Chichizola said. “You can’t control the outcomes of games, the outcomes of plays, but you can control how much work you put into it. I want to end the season having no regrets, being satisfied with the work I put in, and knowing I put my full heart into it.”

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