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Duke field hockey scores twice late to beat No. 10 Northwestern

<p>Aileen Johnson scored the first of two Duke goals late in the second half as the Blue Devils beat No. 10 Northwestern in Lancaster, Pa.</p>

Aileen Johnson scored the first of two Duke goals late in the second half as the Blue Devils beat No. 10 Northwestern in Lancaster, Pa.

One thing about these Blue Devils—they’re quick learners.

Senior Aileen Johnson and Robin Blazing each found the net in the final 10 minutes to guide No. 5 Duke to a 2-1 victory against No. 10 Northwestern at the Spooky Nook Complex in Lancaster, Pa., Friday in the Blue Devils' first game of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Lauren Blazing held the Wildcats scoreless for 69 minutes before junior Isabel Flens scored with 28 seconds remaining, posting three saves and negating Northwestern’s four penalty corners.

“I’m really proud of how our defense held in there and [showed consistency] from the top to the end,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin told GoDuke.com. “[The Wildcats’] defense certainly gave us a huge challenge on generating an attack, but I thought that our persistence and our stay-with-it mentality paid off.”

One game removed from a West Coast collapse in which No. 6 Stanford handed Duke (2-1) its first loss of the season after forcing overtime in the final seconds of regulation, Bustin’s squad avoided a similar result against Northwestern (1-2) by finishing strong on defense and showing discipline and poise throughout the game.

Duke held the Wildcats to four shots on goal and limited their opponent's possessions by stopping the offense in the open field before they could set up and establish a rhythm.

The Blue Devils needed all the help they could get, as the stingy Northwestern defense warded off Duke’s scoring efforts for 65 minutes before Johnson struck the back of the net from just inside the scoring circle.

Buoyed by their first lead of the game, the Blue Devils got right back on the attack, rather than play for possession like they had against the Cardinal. The insurance goal came in the 68th minute when sophomore Ashley Kristen propelled a shot towards an empty net after the Wildcats pulled their goaltender order to add another attacker. Robin Blazing tipped in the loose ball and the Blue Devils celebrated for the second time in three minutes.

When Northwestern finally did score, it was a goal the Blue Devils could survive because of the mettle they had played with from start to finish.

“We learned a lot from that overtime match," Bustin said. “Our mentality is that we want to stay in the moment and stay in the play and [our team] really did that today…. They got themselves in a good place to come out strong and finish strong against a great opponent.”

Duke will not have much time to dwell on the victory, as the Blue Devils are slated to play No. 3 Maryland (2-1) Sunday at 3 p.m. in its final game of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Duke sports an all-time record of 9-32-3 against the Terrapins and but won the most recent meeting in the 2014 NCAA semifinals.

Despite only notching two scores, Duke launched 15 shots toward the goal and earned seven penalty corners against Northwestern. The Blue Devils also edged out the Wildcats in terms of number of players contributing. All six of the Wildcats shots came off the sticks of two players, Flens and junior Dominique Masters.

By comparison, nine different Duke players added to the team’s offensive chances—a trend the team will look to continue against the Terrapins.

“[Playing Maryland will be] a great challenge, Bustin said. “[They are] a super-talented team, a strong team with some great set pieces. If we can keep the play up in the midfield and take advantage of our opportunities up front, it will be a great game.”

Maryland enter Sunday’s match after losing to No. 13 Boston College 3-2 in overtime earlier in the day at the Spooky Nook Complex. With the Terrapins hungry to rebound after Friday’s loss and notch the Big Ten’s first win in Lancaster, the Blue Devils will need to be at their best come Sunday.

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