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Duke field hockey holds off late surge from No. 15 Princeton at home

<p>Margaux Paolino scored her first goal of the season on the final play of the first half.</p>

Margaux Paolino scored her first goal of the season on the final play of the first half.

After being ahead for the whole second half, the fourth-ranked Blue Devils looked like they were on their way to an easy finish. Instead, they had to withstand an intense struggle that put the outcome in doubt until the very end.

No. 4 Duke wrapped up a perfect weekend with a 2-1 victory against No. 15 Princeton at Jack Katz Stadium Sunday after the Tigers had a potential game-tying goal called off following a review in the 65th minute. Despite the late chances for Princeton, the Blue Devils’ back line did not give up, and they fought off the last-second rush by their opponent.

“In a way, it’s good that we took some hits. We have to use that to help us learn and move forward,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “We still were able to fight for the win and stay together to preserve the win.”

With a strong effort until the finish, the Blue Devils (6-1) earned their second win in as many home games this season. Duke played its first five games on the road and enjoyed being back on its home turf this weekend.

“[Playing at home] is so awesome,” senior co-captain Alyssa Chillano said. “We were saying that being away for three weekends in a row, we didn’t realize how much of a toll [the travel] was putting on our bodies, but coming back was awesome and I really think we made a statement coming back to our home field.”

After being awarded a penalty corner late in the first half, Chillano was the catalyst for the first goal of the game when her shot was saved but landed in the lap of sophomore Margaux Paolino, who fired it past the goalkeeper for her first goal of the season to end the first half. 

The goal added some life on the offensive end to a first half dominated by stingy defense from both Duke and Princeton, as the two teams combined for just three shots on goal in the period. 

“The offense was working really hard together,” junior Rose Tynan said, “It was kind of tough in the first half today because [Princeton] was getting a lot of touches on it, so in the second half we decided we were just going to jump on all the balls, which we did.”

The Blue Devils’ change in aggressiveness and their momentum from the goal gave the team more energy to start the second half, which resulted in a goal from Tynan halfway through the period for her team-high sixth goal this season. But the Tigers (1-4) soon countered and trimmed the lead to one with a goal just three minutes later on a deflection off a corner from Elise Wong. Princeton continued to pressure Duke’s defense and attack on offense, outshooting the Blue Devils 7-3 in the second half after getting outshot 9-2 in the first.

However, Duke goalkeeper Sammi Steele stepped up in the second half, recording three saves after needing to make just one in the first. Midway through the period, the redshirt sophomore made an impressive glove save to preserve the Blue Devils’ lead just before Tynan extended it to two. 

Princeton’s late charge culminated with the goal that ended up getting waved off by the officials, but Duke’s players were unconcerned during the review.

“We came together and either way [the goal call] goes, we had no effect on it, so we just focused on what was ahead,” Tynan said. “Luckily it went our way, but we were ready.”

After holding on for the win, the Blue Devils now turn their sights toward Old Dominion. Bustin expressed her goal for the team to maintain its energy from half to half and focus more on being consistent to prevent opponents from getting back in the game, as Princeton did Sunday.

The game against the Monarchs, the first unranked opponent Duke will face this year, is set for Sept. 24 at 1 p.m. at Jack Katz Stadium.

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