With a save in the last minute by goalkeeper Sammi Steele to prevent No. 12 Wake Forest from tying the game, Duke came away with another big win at Jack Katz Stadium Friday night.
The second-ranked Blue Devils topped their fellow ACC foes 2-1, as senior back Alyssa Chillano scored both goals off corners and their redshirt sophomore goalie made astounding saves throughout the night.
“I don’t really think there are many teams playing hockey as well as we are right now,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “Our game is a great game. We just have to keep it going more consistent and longer, and then capitalize. Have that finish on both ends.”
Duke (11-2, 3-2 in the ACC) started out the game in control, working the field and delivering its first goal in the 13th minute of play. Junior forward Caroline Andretta and sophomore midfielder Margaux Paolino set Chillano up for the penalty corner drag, resulting in a goal powerful enough it bounced from the back of the cage back onto the field.
Her next goal came not eight minutes later, when another penalty corner drag, assisted by Paolino and senior forward Ashley Kristen, put the Blue Devils up 2-0.
“In practice this week, we focused a lot on our corners, earning more corners and knowing how to finish on them,” Chillano said. “I think we give ourselves great opportunities on our offensive end and we just have to finish them. To get two goals off corners tonight was really good.”
The Blue Devils finished the first half strong, with three penalty corners compared to the Demon Deacons' two and eight shots compared to their three.
However, Wake Forest (8-6, 2-3) came out attacking in the second half. The shift in momentum forced Duke to play a more defensive game, only taking two corners and six shots after the break. The Demon Deacons flipped the script with five corners and nine shots, pressing forward and threatening Steele relentlessly.
“First half, we came out with a lot of energy and got the two goals on the board,” Chillano said. “In the second half, we didn’t come out with less energy, but something in our play made us shift to a defensive mindset rather than an attacking mindset.”
Wake Forest scored in the latter part of the half, breaking through on a corner in the 57th minute of play when sophomore forward Nicola Pluta put the ball in the net.
With about five minutes left in the game and the momentum on their side, the Demon Deacons ended up with crucial scoring opportunities off two more corners.
As the clock ticked down around the five-minute mark, Wake Forest attempted to chip the ball up and into the goal, but Steele jumped into the air to deflect it over the frame.
“We practice our defensive corners every week, so just working with the people around you and getting lots of repetition,” Steele said. “I don’t like to put too much thought into it. I just watch the ball go out and watch the shot come in. “
A similar situation arose with less than a minute left in the game. The Demon Deacons had the game-tying corner shot set up and narrowly missed, as Steele stuck her foot out to keep the ball from flying into the bottom left corner.
“She works extremely hard at her position and works really hard with her defense,” Bustin said of her goalie. ”When it’s her time to step up, she’s ready to do it. She had some incredible saves and just stayed in it, [and] kept it simple.”
Steele finished the game with five saves—four of them in the second half—and Chillano made her defensive presence known with a defensive save.
With a matchup against ACC rival North Carolina just a week away, Duke will need to work on continuing its energy and momentum into the second halves of its games to win.
“We have to keep everything moving,” Bustin said. “It’s when we start standing still and start to get static that we find ourselves getting in trouble.”
The Blue Devils continue their home stand with Miami (Ohio) at 1 p.m. Sunday.
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