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Duke field hockey holds off No. 5 North Carolina in ACC finale

<p>Alyssa Chillano scored two goals to win her final regular-season game against North Carolina.</p>

Alyssa Chillano scored two goals to win her final regular-season game against North Carolina.

The last time these Tobacco Road rivals met, the Tar Heels knocked off then-No. 1 Duke 3-2 in the 2016 ACC tournament semifinals. 

In their first meeting since that defeat, the Blue Devils returned the favor.

No. 2 Duke held off a late rally to outduel No. 5 North Carolina 3-2 in a "road" contest at Jack Katz Stadium Friday in its final conference matchup of the regular season. Senior Alyssa Chillano scored twice and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sammi Steele made six saves to lead the Blue Devils, who won for the 10th time in their last 11 games. 

Duke never trailed, but had to fend off a late threat as the Tar Heels earned a series of late corners to try to force overtime.  For the Blue Devils, it was just their second victory against North Carolina in the past five years.

“[I’m] really proud of the entire team’s work on the defensive end today,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “We’re building our confidence, and as a group [we’re] working together to contain the space, and then be ready to make a play on the ball when it’s time."

Chillano, who was selected to the NFHCA Senior Game roster along with classmate Sarah Furey, finished an early short corner opportunity to give the Blue Devils an early lead. Sophomore Margaux Paolino took the corner and passed to Caroline Andretta, who redirected the ball to Chillano for Duke’s first goal barely 14 minutes into the game. 

The Blue Devils (13-2, 4-2 in the ACC) doubled their lead late in the first half, again off a short corner taken by Paolino. With less than four minutes remaining in the half, Paolino’s feed was taken by senior Ashley Kristen, who dumped the ball off to Chillano for the Phoenixville, Pa., native’s second goal of the game and sixth this season. 

Chillano’s score marked just the second time she has notched multiple goals in a game this season, previously accomplishing the feat in Duke’s last ACC matchup against Wake Forest. Chillano’s scoring output has dropped noticeably from a season ago, when she finished the year with 13 goals and 32 points—she has six goals and 13 points with two games to go in this year’s regular season. 

The Blue Devils enjoyed a strong showing from Chillano on the offensive end in the first half, and their defense was also impressive throughout the game. The Tar Heels threatened repeatedly early in the game, but were held scoreless in the first half despite entering the game as the second-highest scoring offense in the ACC. 

Duke’s defense, which ranked fourth in the nation with a 0.97 goals against average entering the contest, largely stymied North Carolina, which also had several near-misses on shot attempts. A shot off the right post midway through the first half and a missed opportunity on a cross in front of the Blue Devils’ goal just before halftime kept Duke in front.  

The Tar Heels (12-4, 3-3) earned 10 corners, including seven in the second half, but had trouble beating the Blue Devil defense to find the back of the cage. 

“Sammi is just doing her job. She’s doing great,” Bustin said. “I thought our fliers did an awesome job flying out on the corners, so Ainsley [Gill] and Erin [Scherrer] and everybody just cleaned up the rest of the stuff.”

North Carolina finally broke through and scored on a goal from Eef Andriessen on an assist from Marissa Creatore barely two minutes into the second half. However, the Blue Devils quickly answered with a transition goal of their own after the Tar Heels failed to convert a corner opportunity, as Kristen fed Rose Tynan in front of the net to push the lead back to two. 

The Tar Heels scored again, though, as Feline Guenther chipped a rebound over a diving Steele with about five minutes remaining in the game. But from that point on, the Duke defense held strong in front of Steele, whose .806 save percentage entering the game led all ACC goalkeepers. 

“Sammi’s been having a great season. She just comes up big. If our team misses a tackle, we know she’s always back there,” Chillano said. “Each game we play means something, and this one being at the end of the season means a little more—ACC win and regional win.”

The Blue Devils will travel to Lynchburg, Va., to take on Liberty Sunday at 1 p.m. before wrapping up their regular season at home against Appalachian State next weekend.   


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