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Duke field hockey finds defensive rhythm, shuts out Richmond 2-0 in season finale

Freshman Alyssa Chillano notched her first career goal in the regular season finale Saturday at Richmond.
Freshman Alyssa Chillano notched her first career goal in the regular season finale Saturday at Richmond.

With postseason play looming, Duke found the defensive effort it had been searching for for more than a month.

The No. 6 Blue Devils capped off their regular season with a 2-0 shutout against Richmond at Crenshaw Field in Richmond, Va. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Lauren Blazing made two saves to record Duke's first clean sheet since a Sept. 26 victory against California.

“Today there was excitement to get out there and play a strong team and a dangerous team like Richmond on their home field,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “I thought the mental toughness of coming out knowing what they wanted to achieve tonight and staying on task to get it done was awesome.”

The Spiders (9-9) controlled the majority of possession in the game's opening minutes and pressed into the attacking third, but a diving stick save by Blazing kept Richmond off the scoreboard. The Blue Devils were able to draw first blood when junior midfielder Aileen Johnson converted a penalty stroke in the 30th minute. Johnson's sixth goal of the season gave Duke a 1-0 lead heading into halftime.

A week after a 2-1 overtime loss to No. 10 Syracuse in which the Blue Devils (12-5) were held without a single penalty corner, Duke was again held cornerless in a first half that was dominated by midfield play. Neither team registered a corner in the first half, with the Blue Devils and Spiders combining for just five on the evening.

"It was a midfield game, and I think we did a pretty good job of controlling the midfield," Bustin said. "We were efficient, and that's what you have to be. I think that when we did break through we created some super opportunities."

Duke finally found itself with a penalty corner opportunity in the second half, and midfielder Alyssa Chillano was quick to take advantage. The freshman beat Richmond goalkeeper Kelley Wentling in the 52nd minute to double the Blue Devil advantage on a much-needed set piece.

"It was nice to have a corner. Going last weekend without any corners was not typical," Bustin said. "We wanted to get back on track to our attacking mindset."

Back to its winning ways, Duke will now shift its focus toward the postseason. The Blue Devils will be playing host to this year's ACC tournament, which kicks off Thursday when Duke takes on top-ranked North Carolina. The Tar Heels—who will be the tournament's No. 2 seed—defeated the Blue Devils 1-0 in the teams' only meeting Oct. 17.

“This is exactly why it was fun to have a nonconference game right before we get into the conference tournament,” Bustin said. “We wanted to work out some things that, for some reason, were missing a week ago. I think we were able to do that and I think it puts our team back on track, feeling good about how our game is building as we get into the tournament on Thursday.”

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