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Duke field hockey rolls past Louisville in home opener

Morgan Bitting had an assist to help the Blue Devils beat her sister's team Friday night.
Morgan Bitting had an assist to help the Blue Devils beat her sister's team Friday night.

On a penalty corner five minutes into the game, sophomore Margaux Paolino crossed the ball into the shooting circle, and Louisville goalie Ayeisha McFerran kicked away a Blue Devil shot from senior Alyssa Chillano. Junior Rose Tynan collected the bouncing ball, wound up and sniped the upper right-hand corner of the cage for her team-high fifth goal of the season. 

“The opportunity came, and I was like, let’s just rip this one and get the momentum going,” Tynan said.

No. 4 Duke carried that early momentum to a 5-0 win against No. 11 Louisville at Jack Katz Stadium in its home opener Friday night. The Blue Devils scored two goals within the first 10 minutes and added three more in the second half to seal their first ACC win. Duke’s defense shut down a potent Louisville offense for its fourth shutout of the year.

“We just kept to our team commitment to full-field defense,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “Starting with the forward line, through the midfield responsibility and then, of course, what happens in the backfield, is something that we’ve really been harping on, really been practicing. I thought that tonight our defense from the front line was outstanding, allowing our midfielders to read the play a little bit better, come up with some interceptions, and then organize and keep the backfield clean.”

Duke’s midfield controlled possession throughout the game, keeping the ball away from redshirt sophomore goalie Sammi Steele, who did not face a single shot on goal all game. 

“The midfield is like the battery for our team," said junior midfielder Morgan Bitting, who recorded an assist. "When we’re connected, and we’re feeling good, our team is going to do well.” 

The Blue Devils (5-1, 1-1 in the ACC) outshot Louisville 20-2, with 13 of their shots on goal. Along with Tynan’s goal, junior forward Caroline Andretta added two goals—one on a rebound off the cage and another off a long pass from Bitting. Seniors Ashley Kristen and Alexa Mackintire each tallied a goal to put the Cardinals (4-3, 0-1) away. 

Prior to the game, Bustin expressed concern over her team’s ability to get out of what she called “moments of lulls.” Her team responded. 

“Lulls are a part of the game, but it’s how you handle them. Don’t be afraid of a lull. Don’t freak out about a lull. But know that it’s there, and have a solution and try as a team to get out of it," Bustin said. "We did that. We came out a little lulled in the second half, but they found it again. They just did the simple things, they stuck together, and we were able to get the game back in our hands.” 

To fix those lulls, Bustin had the team focus on winning 50-50 balls in practice. 

“I felt we really challenged every 50-50 ball,” Bustin said. “We don’t always win them, but I think the challenge keeps the whole team aggressive. Challenging the 50-50 balls that we need to win creates a great energy when we start moving the ball forward.”

Aside from earning her first ACC win, Bitting also earned bragging rights against her sister, Alli, a freshman on Louisville’s team. 

“This is one of my proudest moments ever. It’s a really cool experience, and I know my family is proud. My parents and my sister are up there," Bitting said. "They’re split, in the Louisville red and Duke blue. Half and half. We’ll get a good Christmas card picture out of this, which is exciting.” 

The Blue Devils will look to carry their momentum into the weekend, when they will play their sixth straight ranked opponent, No. 15 Princeton, at Jack Katz Stadium Sunday at noon.

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