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Duke field hockey looks to hand No. 4 Virginia first loss

<p>Redshirt senior goalkeeper Lauren Blazing and the Blue Devils will attempt to upset the unbeaten No. 4 Cavaliers on the road Friday.</p>

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Lauren Blazing and the Blue Devils will attempt to upset the unbeaten No. 4 Cavaliers on the road Friday.

With an opportunity to topple one of the two remaining unbeaten teams in the ACC, Duke will look to find consistency after an up-and-down homestand.

The No. 7 Blue Devils will face undefeated No. 4 Virginia Friday at 6 p.m. at the blue University Hall Turf Field in Charlottesville, Va., before returning to Jack Katz Stadium to host No. 15 Old Dominion Sunday at 1 p.m. for the first of four straight home games.

The squad is well-versed in preparing for back-to-back contests against ranked opponents after winning both games of the B1G/ACC Cup two weekends ago, including an overtime upset against then-No. 3 Maryland.

“We tend to play better and prepare better when our competition is really challenging,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “And everybody on our schedule is really challenging in different ways. We go into this weekend with some great preparation, having already played ranked teams and facing some awesome opponents in situations where we had to get better.”

The Cavaliers (6-0, 1-0 in the ACC) shut out Miami (Ohio) 1-0 Sunday, winning their fifth consecutive game by a single-goal margin. Also included in that streak are two 4-3 overtime victories against then-No. 7 Penn State Aug. 30 and then-No. 15 Princeton Sept. 6. Midfielders Tara Vittese and Lucy Hyams lead Virginia’s offense, finding the net nine times out of 30 shots on goal so far this season.

Freshman striker Greta Ell has also been a challenge for opponents to contain, with four goals on 12 shots—the most recent of which clinched the win against the Tigers with nine seconds left in overtime.

“They’re a very dangerous attacking team,” Bustin said. “We need to make sure that our attack stays on the front foot, making sure that we continue to attack their defense and keep the pressure up when we have the chance…. We just need to shore up what we do defensively and structurally.”

Hunter Bracale, Hannah Barreca, Alyssa Chillano and Stephanie Pezzuti have all recorded a defensive save this season for the Blue Devils, and goalkeeper Lauren Blazing anchors the defense with 32 total stops. But the squad has struggled with preventing goals in the final minute of regulation and allowed two Wake Forest shots to find the net in the second period in a 2-1 loss in last week's home opener.  

Rebecca Holden and Carrera Lucas will split time in the cage for the Cavaliers. The pair combine for 29 saves and 13 goals allowed.

The Blue Devils (4-2, 0-1) will face their second ranked opponent of the weekend at home Sunday. Old Dominion (4-1) won its third straight game with a 5-2 victory against William & Mary Sept. 11, tallying Andrew Griffiths’ 100th career win as head coach. 

Senior midfielder Sarah Breen—who sits tied for third in the nation in goals per game at 1.40—leads the team with 15 total points on seven goals and one assist. Breen earned her first hat trick of the season against the Tribe and will aim to surpass 100 career points this weekend as the Lady Monarchs take on a pair of top-10 squads.

Old Dominion will face No. 8 Wake Forest Friday in Winston-Salem, N.C., before Sunday’s matchup in Durham.

“They’re a little bit different, but both [Virginia and Old Dominion] are very dangerous,” Bustin said. “For us it will be a battle of structure and a battle of who can break the opponent’s defensive structure the most and capitalize on opportunities. And for us coming off of Friday, it will be really good for us to do that in back-to-back games.”

Duke will look to notch its second home win after a disappointing home opener.  

Held scoreless in the first half and unable to rally after Wake Forest grabbed a 2-0 advantage with 15 minutes left in regulation, the Blue Devils fell 2-1 in Durham last weekend. But behind a strong offensive effort from junior Heather Morris and freshman Rose Tynan, Duke rebounded two days later and cruised past William & Mary 6-2.

Bustin said that the Blue Devils still need to make some adjustments to their mental preparation for home games.  

“They looked at some of the things they did in preparation for that game on Friday, being home all day and going to school,” Bustin said. “It was our first time doing that, and I think we were a bit scattered coming in. They need to be staying more connected and really taking the time to prepare and focus for the match. They’ll fix it.”

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