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Heather on fire: Morris explodes for 4 goals in Duke field hockey romp against James Madison

<p>The Blue Devils dominated play Sunday, outshooting James Madison 22-7.&nbsp;</p>

The Blue Devils dominated play Sunday, outshooting James Madison 22-7. 

After battling for a hard-fought 3-2 win against No. 11 Virginia Friday to preserve its perfect record, No. 2 Duke hoped to avoid a slow start Sunday.

Luckily, the Blue Devils had Heather Morris.

The senior forward turned in a performance to remember with a career-high four goals—all coming in the first half—in the Blue Devils’ 7-1 blowout victory against James Madison at Jack Katz Stadium. With the win, Duke tied the 1978 and 2014 squads for the best starts in program history.

“I’ve never had four goals in a game, let alone four goals in a half, so that’s pretty special,” Morris said. “I really couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They gave me some great passes and set me up for success so I just was the lucky one to finish them.”

The Blue Devils (6-0) came out aggressive and kept the James Madison defense on its heels during the first 35 minutes. Duke finished with a 22-7 advantage in shots and only needed a single save from sophomore goalkeeper Sammi Steele in the victory. The Blue Devils also put their impressive depth on display, rotating players frequently to combat the sweltering heat and getting every member on their active roster into the game.

Duke got off to a quick start, taking advantage of its first penalty corner to get on the board when junior Ashley Kristen got her stick on a drag from Alyssa Chillano near the front of the net. The Blue Devils continued to execute in a clinical fashion with sharp passes around the field generating good looks for multiple options.

With Duke already up 1-0, sophomore Christy Palazzese made a run up the right side of the field and found sophomore Rose Tynan at the back post for a tap-in to put the Blue Devils up two goals just nearly 14 minutes into the game.

“Our challenge was to come out with the same kind of energy and same kind of focus that we had on Friday night, and they did. Because we did, we were able to capitalize and play well at times and maybe at times make it look easy,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “But I wouldn’t say that was a particularly easy game.”

Morris made it look easy, putting the game away early with a scintillating 15-minute stretch to close out the first half.

The Pottsville, Pa., native tallied her first goal of the afternoon in the 16th minute when she finished a reverse breakaway shot on an assist from Caroline Andretta. After the Dukes (3-2) put one past Steele to cut the lead to 3-1, Morris struck for a pair of goals in quick succession, first beating goalkeeper Sara Kraeutler on a feed from Erin Scherrer before finding the back of the net just a minute later on a penalty stroke.

“Heather’s prepared for this and the team around her understands that we try to play to each other’s strengths,” Bustin said. “If we can get her the ball in the right place and she can work to be open, then that’s going to be hopefully what happens and she enjoys it. She enjoys the game when she scores.”

Just for good measure, Morris capped her offensive explosion with a top shelf backhand goal to put the Blue Devils ahead 6-1 at the half. Senior Robin Blazing connected on her first goal of the season in the 58th minute to cap off a strong all-around performance for Duke.

“We have a really strong attack in general, through all the lines from defense up, midfield to forwards,” Morris said. “We work as a team and we play really well together as a team, so our teammate and unity gets teams down and we just end up crushing them.”

Although their offense was clicking on all cylinders, the Blue Devils’ defensive effort in the heat also impressed Bustin and created more counterattacking opportunities.

“We wanted to keep our defense structure very disciplined from the top, the forward line all the way to the goalkeeper,” Bustin said. “They did a great job of that and because of that we were able to create some great scoring opportunities.”

Although Friday’s Virginia game capped off a four-game stretch against top-20 opponents, Duke’s road will not get any easier.

The Blue Devils will hit the road for three straight games—including a pair of conference games against No. 8 Louisville and No. 3 North Carolina—before returning home to face Boston College Sept. 30.

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