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Duke field hockey uses dominant second half to pull away from Delaware 5-1

<p>Junior Robin Blazing was one of five different Blue Devils to score Friday night as the team's offense carried it to a 5-1 victory against Delaware.</p>

Junior Robin Blazing was one of five different Blue Devils to score Friday night as the team's offense carried it to a 5-1 victory against Delaware.

The Blue Devils' attacking mentality appears to have taken hold—for now.

Powered by a dominant second half, No. 6 Duke dispatched No. 12 Delaware 5-1 Friday at Jack Katz Stadium to notch their sixth win of the season. Five different Blue Devils recorded goals and three others dished out assists as Duke notched four unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes to hand the Blue Hens their first loss of the year.

The Blue Devils’ fierce attacking mentality and sustained offensive pressure proved to be the deciding factor in the game, wearing down the Delaware defense on a cold and rainy night.

“[We] were really consistent in building our strength, and we finished strong,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “The second half was outstanding. It was a matter of everybody taking their individual ownership and playing together as a team.”

Deleware (8-1) challenged Duke early in the first half, but cooled down slightly after senior Hannah Barreca delivered a strong strike on a penalty corner to break a 1-1 tie in the 30th minute.

The go-ahead goal kick started a Duke offense that would go on to dominate the pace of play for the remainder of the game.

The Blue Devils (6-3) built on their lead after the break when junior Hunter Bracale received a well timed cross several yards inside the circle. With one powerful stroke, the Hummelstown, Pa., native sent the ball whizzing past the outstretched glove of the Blue Hen goalkeeper and into the back of the net.

“We’ve been practicing that 90-degree pass when the ball goes down to the forward a lot,” Bracale said. “I got my head up and I got a touch…. It was just a momentum shift and I took it to cage.”

Junior Robin Blazing added to Duke’s total in the 62nd minute by collecting a rebound and redirecting it into the net. Sophomore Ainsley Gill recorded her first score of the season less than five minutes later when she knocked in a shot near the post on an assist from senior Aileen Johnson.

When the final buzzer sounded, it all added up to an explosive day for the Blue Devils’ offense and a resounding victory against a previously undefeated opponent.

“We came out firing,” junior Hunter Bracale said. “There was a lot of momentum and fight coming from everyone on the field. We said 'This is our house and we’re going to take it to them’ and we stuck to that game plan.”

Friday’s victory was more than just knocking off an undefeated opponent however—it was a step in the right direction for a team that has struggled at times to with its mental preparation.

Since the beginning of the season, Bustin has said that her team needs to adopt an attacking mentality. Although Duke has shown glimpses of its attacking abilities throughout the season, consistency in the area is something the group is still working toward.

After posting a 1-1 record last weekend, the Blue Devils made a commitment to improve their mental approach to the game. There has been a greater attention to the topic in practice and Bustin said players have responded.

“The mentality that we bring to play is changing," Bustin said. “We’re going harder at each other [in practice]. We want to make practices harder than the games so we will be ready for what an opponent does.”

Friday marked a significant step forward because Duke showed that it can be more than strong on the offensive end—it showed it can be ferocious.

The Blue Devils outshot Delaware 20 to 13 and held edges in penalty corners and shots on target. The team’s ability to distribute goal scoring and share the ball created havoc for a Blue Hen defense that faced threats from all angles of the circle.

More significant than any single stat, though, was the way that Duke sustained offensive pressure and used its depth and versatility to wear down its opponent. By playing to their strengths, the Blue Devils were able to establish the end game dominance necessary to put the game away.

And as Bustin said, that all begins with having an attacking mentality.

“For me, everything starts with good defensive footwork and being aggressive in defense,” Bustin said. “That opens up opportunities to attack and gives you confidence to go. We [executed] those things tonight.”

Repeating the offensive dominance it showcased against Delaware will be key for Duke moving forward. The Blue Devils’ next test is a 6 p.m. meeting against No. 8 Louisville Oct. 2 at Jack Katz Stadium.

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