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Duke field hockey can't topple top-ranked Tar Heels

Friday night, fans proved that the “Tobacco Road Rivalry” moniker, and the hype that comes with it, is not exclusive to basketball.

A season-high crowd turned out to watch No. 5 Duke field hockey host top-ranked North Carolina at Jack Katz Stadium, but the Blue Devils were unable to pull the upset, falling 1-0 to their Tobacco Road rivals.

The first shot of the game was had by Duke in the 28th minute, when forward Jessica Buttinger was fouled in the box. The shot was taken on the resulting penalty stroke by Buttinger, but was saved routinely by North Carolina goalkeeper Shannon Johnson.

“We came out really strong,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “We did a great job of possessing the ball and moving the ball- it was some of our best stuff attack-wise. Then we kind of fell into a little lull.”

In the 20th minute, a shot by substitute forward Sarah Urdahl was blocked by the body of North Carolina midfielder Emma Bozek, who also threw her stick on the play, resulting in a penalty stroke for Duke. The attempt by Buttinger flew wide right. Two minutes later, forward Heather Morris’ attempt went wide left.

North Carolina had their first shot of the game in the 25th minute, after an attempted clear by Buttinger failed to make it out of the shooting circle. A Duke deflection granted the Tar Heels a penalty corner, on which North Carolina’s Nina Notman was fouled in the shooting circle. Notman’s shot on the penalty stroke was blocked by midfielder Abby Beltrani.

“The really close [misses] are always agonizing,” Buttinger said. “They make you think ‘Ahh, if only I had just pushed [the ball in the net],’ or ‘Ahh, if only I had just slid there.’ There were so many close [misses].”

The rest of the half was dominated by North Carolina. The Tar Heels recorded five of their seven first-half shots in the final 12 minutes.

Notman had a penalty stroke attempt in the 12th minute, after North Carolina teammate Julia Young was fouled in the shooting cirle, but failed to capitalize, as her shot was deflected by goalkeeper Lauren Blazing. The Duke goalie had another save on the penalty corner immediately following her first save.

Two short minutes later, the Tar Heels scored. On a cross by North Carolina’s Lauren Moyer, teammate Casey Di Nardo was fouled hard in the box. On the ensuing penalty stroke, instead of passing straight out of the set as the Tar Heels had done twice before, at the last second, Tar Heel midfielder Emily Wold redirected the pass to defender Samantha Travers, whose 18-yard strike careened past Blazing to give North Caroina a 1-0 lead.

“We got caught behind the transition game, and then, unfortunately, they earned that goal,” Bustin said.

Blazing had two more saves before the end of the first stanza, including a diving stop on a shot by North Carolina’s Loren Shealy. Trailing 1-0 heading into the locker room, the Blue Devils looked to regroup and prepare themselves mentally for the second half.

“At halftime [our players] did a really good job of coming together, going back to the game plan, and the things that we knew we had to do to win the game,” Bustin said.

The start of the second half was uneventful, with both teams jostling for possession about midfield frequently, and neither making it past the opponent’s 25-yard line for any significant amount of time. Eventually, Duke asserted itself offensively and outshot North Carolina 7-5 in the final 35 minutes.

Just 14 minutes into the period, the Blue Devils were awarded a penalty stroke, but defender Hannah Barreca’s shot was saved by Johnson. Four minutes later, a second penalty attempt was stopped by the North Carolina keeper.

In the 50th minute, Duke came up short again, when a fast break shot was cut off by a diving Johnson to preserve North Carolina’s 1-0 lead.

“We did everything we could to win the game in the second half [except finish],” Bustin said, “I couldn’t be more proud of how they competed the second half against a great team [in North Carolina], but you just got to finish it. You've got to score in this game.”

When the clock hit 6:21, Bustin made the move to pull Blazing in favor of an 11th field player. Despite the empty net strategy, the Blue Devils could not break through for the equalizer, for the remainder of the game, as Duke could not execute on its final penalty stroke attempt, a shot by forward Alyssa Chillano.

“It’s really unfortunate that we weren’t able to put the ball in the cage,” Bustin said. “We had our opportunities, but that’s just something we have to take more pride in and have more confidence in.”

The Blue Devils will face James Madison Sunday with just one full day between matches. Duke will have to make a quick turnaround after a tough conference loss, but Bustin has faith in her team's ability to move past Friday's result quickly.

“This team is resilient. There are two things we take pride in: our belief and our fight,” Bustin said. “We’re just going to keep playing the game.”

Jacob Weiss

Jacob Weiss is a Trinity senior. His column, "not jumping to any conclusions," runs on alternate Fridays.


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