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Blue Devil field hockey falls in OT to North Carolina after video review

The Blue Devils found themselves deadlocked with rival North Carolina in overtime, but a late penalty stroke bounced Duke from the ACC tournament.
The Blue Devils found themselves deadlocked with rival North Carolina in overtime, but a late penalty stroke bounced Duke from the ACC tournament.

After convening at the technical table to review the video, the officials returned to the field to make their call: a penalty stroke for the top-ranked Tar Heels.

With 6:11 left on the clock in the first overtime period, North Carolina junior Nina Notman stepped up to the penalty spot, just seven yards out from the goal, and fired to Duke goalkeeper Lauren Blazing’s left.

Blazing got a piece of the shot, but could not prevent it from squeaking beneath her into the goal and knocking the Blue Devils out of the ACC tournament quarterfinals with a 2-1 victory at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium Thursday afternoon.

“We played great against a great team,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “It was a great match, and it is absolutely unfortunate that that’s the way a great game with kids who are fighting their hearts out comes to an end.”

North Carolina’s penalty stroke almost wasn’t.

Moments earlier, the Tar Heels (17-2) launched their best attack of the overtime period, finding space deep in Blue Devil territory. North Carolina senior Charlotte Craddock found teammate Emily Wold open in the middle of the field, just outside the shooting circle.

Duke (12-6) had just one defender between Wold and Blazing, junior Hannah Barreca. As Barreca charged out, the players collided near the top of the shooting circle and Blazing cleared the ball. No penalty corner or stroke was called, and several Tar Heel players called for a video referral—an appeal process instituted last season available only in postseason play that can apply to decisions and non-decisions.

“We’re really fortunate to have video referral, and that’s the way the game’s going, and internationally that’s the way it works,” Bustin said. “I think it’s really cool, and awesome for the kids, that they get to experience that at the ACC tournament, and we’re just getting better and better at it.”

Earlier in the game, the Blue Devils had benefited from a video review of their own, but could not convert a game-winner. As the clock ticked down to zero in regulation, Duke’s final attack made it into the shooting circle where the ball was deflected off a North Carolina foot, prompting the video referral request.

The officials awarded the Blue Devils one final penalty corner, but goalkeeper Shannon Johnson fended off the shot.

The senior Tar Heel and sister of Duke junior Aileen Johnson had shut out the Blue Devils in the Oct. 17 regular season matchup and ranks second in the NCAA in goals-against average. She recorded five saves against Duke Thursday, but the Blue Devils got on the board first.

The Blue Devils grabbed a 1-0 lead in the second half, but couldn't make it stick, falling 2-1 in overtime to No. 1 North Carolina.

Less than five minutes into the second half, senior Jessica Buttinger found freshman Ashley Kristen in open space near the far post of the goal for a short-range conversion.

“I was looking for a foot, or just to generate something,” Buttinger said. “And honestly I held onto the ball for a little bit longer, and it opened up. I saw Ash right there. It was a nice connection.”

The lead did not last long, however.

A little more than five minutes later, Duke gave up a penalty corner, and the Tar Heels capitalized, setting up back Samantha Travers with a strike from the top of the shooting circle that midfielder Emma Bozek redirected from the middle of the circle.

“That’s their go-to corner,” Bustin said. “It’s awesome. And we knew it was coming. We defended it well in the past, and they did a good job executing it.”

With about 24 minutes to play, the Blue Devils struggled to find a chance to get back on top. Duke had a few looks in the North Carolina shooting circle in the final 10 minutes but managed only one more shot on goal in regulation.

The Blue Devils will now await their postseason fate Sunday at 10 p.m., when the NCAA Selection Committee reveals the field for the 20-team NCAA tournament. Duke's tournament hopes took a blow with its early exit from the conference tournament Thursday, but last year's national tournament featured all seven ACC teams, and the Blue Devils are hoping to have a shot at a repeat trip to the national title game.

“We had our opportunities and our chances,” Bustin said. “We’ve just got to lock in on those as we move forward.”


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