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Duke field hockey falls to 2-3 in ACC play with loss at North Carolina

<p>The Blue Devil comeback bid fell short against the Tar Heels Friday, dropping their fourth consecutive game to North Carolina.</p>

The Blue Devil comeback bid fell short against the Tar Heels Friday, dropping their fourth consecutive game to North Carolina.

CHAPEL HILL—The Blue Devils could not overcome a strong offensive performance by the Tar Heels in their fourth consecutive defeat in the Tobacco Road rivalry.

No. 4 Duke fell 2-1 to No. 3 North Carolina at Henry Stadium in a contest marked by rapid ball movement and frenetic defending. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils subbed frequently and changed sides of the the field often, but the hosts did enough to come away with the one-goal victory. The loss marks the end of a six-game winning streak and the first road loss for the Blue Devils in a month.

“The ACC is competitive, and these kids are athletes and they like to play fast. That’s how it’s going to be” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said.

North Carolina (12-1, 4-1 in the ACC) dominated the first 20 minutes, holding possession and creating scoring opportunities that culminated in Malin Evert’s unassisted goal from the top of the circle. Duke (10-4, 2-3) responded with tighter defense throughout the rest of the game, holding a Tar Heel offense that had scored eight goals in each of the last three games to just one more score.

“Other than the first few minutes of the game, our defense was outstanding—the aggressiveness and the composure they had as a unit back there was one of the best we’ve had this year," Bustin said. "The two goals, credit to Carolina. But they were unfortunate for us. They were things we misplayed. Lesson learned, but at this level, lesson learned can cost you the game. So we’ll take this and we’ll be even better for it tomorrow.”

The physicality of the match only increased following the first goal, as North Carolina racked up five penalty corners and one green card in the first half, but it was Duke’s one conceded penalty corner that allowed the winning score. After a pass inside from teammate Ashley Hoffman, senior forward Casey Di Nardo’s shot deflected past Duke goalkeeper Lauren Blazing and into the far post.

Duke’s opportunities to score came in a flurry, with three penalty corners in a row to end the half. Although the Blue Devils could not directly capitalize on the plays, the continued possession in the Tar Heel half of the field led to Duke’s lone score.

Freshman Rose Tynan corralled the ball at the top of the circle and ripped a deep shot past North Carolina goalkeeper Shannon Johnson with two minutes remaining in the first half.

“The seniors did a good job of building this game up for us, so when you get your opportunity you have to take it," Tynan said. "The ball came to me at the top of the circle and I knew I just had to take the shot.”

The two sides went into the break with six shots apiece but Duke failed to create more offense afterward, mustering only another three shots to the Tar Heels' nine. North Carolina continued to press and forced three penalty corners, as well as scoring a goal that would be disallowed for a foul away from the ball.

By the time Duke pulled Blazing with three minutes remaining, all the Tar Heels had to do was maintain possession. But instead, they continued to press, nearly finding another the game-sealing score save for some strong team defense in the circle by the Blue Devils.

“We want to capitalize on our corners and we’ve got to capitalize on opportunities we have, just make sure we clean up what we’re doing defensively," Bustin said." We don’t want to create opportunities for the opponent—let them create their own.”

The Blue Devils will look to start a new winning streak Sunday on the road against No. 18 James Madison.

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