In their first game against a top-15 opponent this season, the Blue Devils struggled to develop scoring opportunities in the first half.
But an Alyssa Chillano goal in the 43rd minute opened the floodgates for the home team, extinguishing the visiting Flames.
No. 4 Duke scored all four of its goals in a 17-minute span to best No. 13 Liberty 4-0 Sunday afternoon at Jack Katz Stadium. Following Chillano’s first crack in Liberty’s defense, the Blue Devils added tallies from senior Heather Morris, sophomore Rose Tynan and her classmate Caroline Andretta to put the game away.
“It was a great opportunity against a really good opponent to get out there and work out some of the things that Duke field hockey is striving to achieve as we build towards and into the season,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “We were able to generate some great attack that we’ve been working on and some different combinations and work our entire lineup into this game, which was awesome.”
The final margin might indicate a blowout, but Liberty goalkeeper Allison Schaefer kept the Flames (0-2) in the game in the first half. After exploding for eight goals Friday against William and Mary, the Blue Devils (2-0) put four shots on goal in the opening period Friday, only to see the freshman turn away all four.
But Schaefer could only keep Duke at bay for so long.
Eight minutes after halftime, Chillano earned the penalty corner that gave way to her second goal of the season, with senior Robin Blazing and freshman Margaux Paolino setting up the versatile defender. From that point forward, the Blue Devils' speed and depth were on display, with Duke creating numerous transition opportunities.
Shortly after Chillano's goal, Morris tacked on her third goal of the season off an assist from sophomore Erin Scherrer. After corralling a long pass from downfield, Scherrer sped past her defender to find Morris streaking alongside her. One quick pass later, the senior forward stung the bottom right corner of the goal with her shot.
Bustin's strategy of utilizing her entire bench—all but two active players logged at least 10 minutes Sunday—paid off further when Tynan scored barely two minutes after Morris' goal. Graduate student Aisling Naughton chased down a loose ball before driving into the attacking third to make the pass to Tynan inside the arc. From there, all the sophomore forward had to do was pick her target in a one-on-one matchup with Schaefer.
“We want to play faster and that’s something that’s been a two or three-year process that takes time to change mindsets,” Bustin said. “We’re looking to turn forward which is good and we have some great finishers on this team, so it’s just a matter of finding the team rhythm and finding the connections and expecting the ball, then having the composure to finish it."
Duke drew another penalty corner late that set up Andretta for the final tally of the day.
The forwards' energy stemmed from a strong defensive performance that allowed sophomore goalkeeper Sammi Steele to keep a clean sheet with just two easy saves in her second collegiate start. Steele—who is replacing three-time All-American goalkeeper Lauren Blazing—allowed one goal against the Tribe Friday before senior Kelsey Wagner let in three more.
“We talk a lot about one play at a time,” Steele said. “I was just waiting as the game went on and wasn’t looking toward a shutout, just making sure that we got the win and every time that they came in, just trying to do my best."
Following their two-game homestand to start the season, the Blue Devils will go on the road to the headquarters of USA Field Hockey in Lancaster, Pa., for the Big 10/ACC Cup, with contests against No. 6 Maryland and No. 16 Northwestern.
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