Duke's Senior Day was one to remember, as the Blue Devils easily dispatched the Mountaineers behind strong performances from seniors Alyssa Chillano and Ashley Kristen.
The No. 2 Blue Devils dominated from the start, and though they had trouble finishing their plethora of opportunities, it didn’t stop them from cruising to a 4-0 victory. It was a tight match for the first 55 minutes at Jack Katz Stadium Saturday, as the Appalachian State defense kept the game close and only conceded a single goal in Duke's first 30 shots. However, the Mountaineers couldn’t stem the tide forever, and the Blue Devils converted three of their last six shots to put the game away for good.
“We’ve been working a lot on trying to sustain our attack and keeping possession of the ball and picking our opportunities to shoot or get a corner,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. ”It took us a while to get connected attack-wise, especially with so many opportunities.... We need to click in a little bit sooner. But I am pleased in the last 20 that when we did, it really showed. That’s the way you want to finish a game.”
Duke’s ability to dominate possession and limit opposing opportunities was the story of the game. By the time the clock ticked down to zero, the Blue Devils (15-2) had taken 30 more shots and 11 more corners than the Mountaineers. In fact, the Duke defense allowed just three shots on goal, and goalie Sammi Steele needed only two saves to post her seventh shutout of the season.
“We play our best defensive games when the defense starts from the top, back,” Bustin said. “There were a couple breakdowns today where we were just a little bit late to wake up, step up and get our defensive organization happening, but once we got it together, it really helped.”
Duke broke through first with 16:40 left in the first half. Off a penalty corner, Chillano perfectly set up junior forward Caroline Andretta, who fired a shot that deflected off a defender and found the back of the goal. Duke continued to press all half, but Mountaineer goalie Rachel Gaines did not back down, making 10 of her 17 saves before halftime to keep Appalachian State (8-9) within striking distance.
“Credit to their defense in the first half, it was really tough,” Kristen said. “In the second half, we just came out stronger. We had to. We started moving more and we need to continue to do that.”
Duke’s offense took a while to get going in the second half, with 10 more shots that failed to turn into goals. But in the 55th minute, senior Ainsley Gill streaked across the middle of the field, leaving some Mountaineer midfielders in her dust, and placed a beautiful pass behind the defense. Kristen then controlled it and rifled the ball in for the score.
Off a corner three minutes later, it was Chillano who rocketed a shot past Gaines, with sophomore midfielder Margaux Paolino picking up her team-high ninth assist of the season. To put the icing on the cake, Kristen struck again with her seventh goal of the season.
With the victory, Duke has now won 12 of its last 13 matches and enters the ACC tournament on a six-game winning streak. The Blue Devils received the No. 2 seed and will face No. 7 seed Boston College Thursday in Louisville, Ky.
“It’s definitely a great feeling and a lot of fun to win on Senior Day, but I think we still have a lot more work to do," Kristen said. "It was good to have a little bit of a challenge before we enter the next part of our season.”
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