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No contest: Duke field hockey blitzes Davidson 13-0 in first preseason scrimmage

<p>Junior Ashley Kristen led Duke with two goals and an assist in the Blue Devils' rout of Davidson in Monday's scrimmage.</p>

Junior Ashley Kristen led Duke with two goals and an assist in the Blue Devils' rout of Davidson in Monday's scrimmage.

The Blue Devils are attempting to replace All-ACC players throughout their lineup, but showed few signs of rust in their first scrimmage of the season Monday morning.

Duke defeated Davidson 13-0 in a scrimmage featuring three 25-minute periods at Jack Katz Stadium. Seniors Heather Morris, Hunter Bracale, Savannah Story and Robin Blazing led the way for the Blue Devils, combining for five goals and two assists in Duke's first of two scrimmages before its season opener against William and Mary Aug. 26.

“It’s nice to play against a different opponent, and we really took it to them,” Bracale said. “It was our plan to play fast, keep up the speed. We put some goals in the back of the net and we have some things to work on.”

With five seniors graduated and six newcomers, the Blue Devils are using the preseason to get comfortable with one another. The top two scorers for Duke last year, Morris and junior Ashley Kristen will likely headline the offense, and found several holes in the Wildcat defense Monday. Morris scored her first goal of 2016 and Kristen notched two goals and an assist.

“For the last week [of practice], it’s been about how we’ll be playing together on the field, and getting to know each other’s styles—timing it and getting on the same page,” Blue Devil head coach Pam Bustin said. “Today gave us a good opportunity to do that.

Duke will likely concentrate most on the defensive end after losing three-time All-American goalkeeper Lauren Blazing and defenders Hannah Barreca and Amanda Kim. The Blue Devils return starting defenders Alyssa Chillano and Sarah Furey, both juniors, but will need strong play and leadership in goal to advance to Norfolk, Va., and this year's Final Four.

Sophomore Sammi Steele started between the pipes Monday and rotated with senior Kelsey Wagner throughout the day. Both goalies participated in back-to-back shootout scenarios to end the scrimmage.

Fortunately, we [lost Blazing] when our backfield is pretty seasoned, so both Sammi and Kelsey have a chance to find their way with a great defense in front of them and a great attack ahead of them,” Bustin said. “They’re in a good place to grow into their own game and give us what they can.”

Steele and Wagner will face a greater test in Duke's second scrimmage Saturday against rival North Carolina—the team that eliminated the Blue Devils from the NCAA tournament in 2014 and 2015.

The Tar Heels lost just two players from their 2015 team that went to the national championship and were third in the nation last year in goals per game with 3.8.

Both Duke and North Carolina have players on the U.S. national team, which won its first four games in Rio de Janeiro before falling to Germany 2-1 in Monday's quarterfinals. The Blue Devils were represented by defender Stefanie Fee, who graduated from Duke in 2012 and played big minutes in Rio.

“Right after [Fee] graduated she locked in, and she’s making her dream come true,” Bustin said. “That sends a lot of motivation and inspiration to the rest of the Duke team.”

“When we have breaks, we’re watching the Olympics—men’s, women’s, everything—and to have Fee as a part of our team, it’s just huge for us,” Bracale said. “Everyone’s so excited, we feel like we’re part of that family, we’re right there with them.”

Although the U.S. has not won an Olympic medal since 1984, its highest ranking ever at No. 5 and group-stage upsets of top-five opponents Argentina and Australia suggest that American field hockey is on the rise. 

“[Team USA has] been working very hard to be where they are today, so I’m one of those who’s not that surprised,” Bustin said. “We’ve seen the work and the dedication and the commitment and the investments and the sacrifice that everybody in that squad has made…. They’ve represented us so well and themselves so well that we’re all so proud.”

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