Heather Morris knew that Duke could not afford a second consecutive heart-breaking overtime loss. So in the 73rd minute, when the opportunity presented itself, Morris seized the moment to give the Blue Devils the lead for good.
No. 4 Duke held off No. 10 Liberty 3-2 in overtime as the Blue Devils capped off regular season play Saturday afternoon at Liberty Field Hockey Field in Lynchburg, Va. Morris' game-winner was her team-leading 10th goal of the season and her second of the game, giving the team momentum heading into this week's ACC championship.
“[I’m] really proud of the non-judgment of the game. Knowing that we just had to get back on and knowing that we had generated some great attacking opportunities. As the clock is ticking and as the pressure builds, we have to make sure we execute,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin told GoDuke.com. “We have to believe that we can capitalize and really lock into that.”
In an overtime period in which Duke (12-5) entered a player down following an Aileen Johnson penalty, the Blue Devils had their work cut out for them. But Duke's defense held strong and Morris' strike gave Bustin's squad the offense it needed to seal the victory.
Despite a dominating up-and-down first half in which the Blue Devils outshot the Flames 7-1, the teams went into halftime knotted at one goal apiece. Although the Blue Devils limited the scoring opportunities for both Natalie Barr and Ashlee Krulock—Liberty's top two offensive threats—Hannah Jones struck for the Flames (11-5) in the first half, batting the ball out of mid-air and into the net.
Liberty came in boasting the third-most prolific offense in the nation, but apart from Jones' goal, the Flames did not test redshirt senior goalkeeper Lauren Blazing until the second half. Blazing made four saves in the second period during Liberty’s most dangerous surge of the game, including a diving stop to preserve the tie. The Flames generated the majority of their scoring opportunities off of corners, including both goals.
The Blue Devils’ second goal of the game featured assists from upperclassmen Robin Blazing and Amanda Kim on Alyssa Chillano’s fourth goal of the season, but with just over two minutes left in regulation, Liberty struck back.
The hosts did not quit on the afternoon, scoring both goals within eight minutes of both Duke goals and forcing Duke into turnovers. The Blue Devils were not discouraged, though, and when Morris found herself in a one-on-one situation with Liberty goalkeeper Mallory Cuccio, the junior cashed in.
“The pass that Amanda [Kim] gave to Heather was spot on and it was the right time to do it. The two of them really manipulated the defense great,” Bustin said. “Heather has been taking her shots and I’m glad that she got that one in.”
The Blue Devils rode the efforts of both Morris and Chillano to victory, as the duo combined for 10 of Duke’s 14 shots. Chillano, a defender, was especially active throughout the match, leading the team with a total of six shots.
Bustin's squad will head to Charlottesville, Va., for the ACC championship, which starts Thursday. Fifth-seeded Duke will take on fourth-seeded Virginia looking to avenge a Sept. 18 loss in which the Cavaliers scored four goals—the most allowed by the Blue Devils all year. Last season, the Blue Devils advanced to the ACC quarterfinals before getting knocked out by their Tobacco Road rival North Carolina.
“We’re learning so much. I think the idea of this group consistently believing in their talents and believing in what we can accomplish is what we are building on. That’s what we need to bring into the tournament on Thursday,” Bustin said. “We’ve been playing some of our best hockey in the past two to three weeks, so we just want to continue to build on that."
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