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Duke field hockey displays offensive firepower in season-opening win against William and Mary

<p>Graduate student Aisling Naughton&nbsp;had two goals in her first regular season game with the Blue Devils.&nbsp;</p>

Graduate student Aisling Naughton had two goals in her first regular season game with the Blue Devils. 

In recent weeks, Duke head coach Pam Bustin has emphasized the importance of getting off to a fast start.

The Blue Devils appear to have taken notice.

No. 4 Duke used two early goals to take full control in its season-opening 8-4 win against William and Mary Friday evening at Jack Katz Stadium. Junior Alyssa Chillano’s goal off a penalty corner in the third minute followed by graduate student Aisling Naughton’s tally in the seventh minute set the tone for a high-scoring affair.

“Having the final result of an attack that we’ve been working on and the build-up has been really positive, especially when the chances come early and we needed it,” Bustin said. “For the last three weeks, we’ve really integrated the group and come game day we feel comfortable to play and that’s what we want.”

The Blue Devils' aggression in the opening half set the tone as 12 of the team’s 16 first-half shots were on goal. Duke’s ability to push the pace helped catch a scrambling Tribe defense out of position on numerous occasions, forcing William and Mary into multiple fouls that created corner opportunities for the Blue Devils.

Duke (1-0) took advantage of these opportunities, scoring four of its first five goals off corners. The Blue Devils made life tough on Tribe goalie Morgan Connor, taking 24 shots on goal and continuing to attack relentlessly throughout the evening. On the other hand, Duke’s defense prevented its goalies from facing too much pressure. William and Mary put only nine shots on goal.

“We have to rebuild with the group that we have and it just takes a little bit of time,” Bustin said. “We’ll just keep working on it and drilling it and showing some video and this group understands it. It’s just a matter of clicking together.”

After the quick start, the Tribe (0-1) struck back with a goal from junior Booter Ellis off of a rebound at the post to cut the lead to 2-1. Just under five minutes later, sophomore Rose Tynan pushed the Blue Devil lead back to two after she finished off of a corner setup past Connor.

But Duke did not take its foot off the gas pedal.

The Blue Devils finished the first half with a late flurry, netting three goals in a 5:16 span to head into the intermission with a 6-1 lead. Juniors Stephanie Pezzuti and Alexa Mackintire put home the first two goals during the stretch off of penalty corners, then Naughton notched her second of the night on a feed from freshman Margaux Paolino. Paolino finished her first game with three assists.

After sophomore Sammi Steele started the first half between the pipes for the Blue Devils, Duke turned to senior Kelsey Wagner for the final 35 minutes. William and Mary started to turn things around early in the second half, netting two goals in less than three minutes to cut the Duke lead to 6-3.

“They came out with a more aggressive press and maybe we were in too chill of a mood to react to it, but I think eventually we started working our way through that,” Bustin said. “Our defensive organization is not our character out there and how we played tonight. We’re going to get back to that and look at it and practice and bring back a different level of organization and pressure.”

But the Tribe did not come any closer, thanks in large part to the senior leadership of forward Heather Morris.

The team's leading scorer last season, Morris stopped William and Mary’s run with a goal from the front of the cage in the 45th minute to stretch the Blue Devil lead to 7-3. 

After the Tribe responded with a goal nearly two minutes later, Morris struck again with a screamer past Connor from six yards out. After finishing with 26 points a year ago, the senior is now the leader of a young offense looking to incorporate a crop of highly-touted freshmen.

“We were knocking on the door a lot and I kept telling myself to stay in it and there’s just so much game to play, so many goals scored that it was going to come and then it did,” Morris said. “I tried to work on my positioning and work on working off of people.”

The Blue Devils will stay within the friendly confines of Jack Katz Stadium when they face off against Liberty Sunday at 1 p.m. before hitting the road for next week’s Big 10/ACC Cup. 

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