It only took 24 hours after Duke's first home loss of the season to get the sour taste out of its mouth.
Playing on back-to-back days for the first time this season, the second-ranked Blue Devils topped No. 23 Iowa 4-2 at Jack Katz Stadium after losing to No. 9 Syracuse Saturday. It took 27 minutes and 14 shots for Duke to finally get on the scoreboard Sunday afternoon, but the floodgates soon opened.
"It was really good and important for us to have to take care of the emotional letdown from yesterday to turn around and play a very good team today," Blue Devil head coach Pam Bustin said. "We did a great job. They came and they brought the energy, definitely in the first half."
Duke started to press forward immediately after the opening whistle with two shots in the first three minutes and did not stop for the rest of the first half, threatening relentlessly. But Hawkeye goalkeeper Katie Jones had an answer every time, making all eight of her saves before the break to keep the game scoreless for nearly half an hour.
"We were getting a little bit frustrated. We weren’t able to score and execute on a lot of those things, and that was the problem with the Syracuse game as well," junior forward Erin Scherrer said. "But I think we just were like, ‘It’s going to go in. It’s going to go in. We have to keep creating opportunities.'"
The Blue Devils' breakthrough finally came when a shot from senior Alyssa Chillano was blocked by an Iowa defender illegally standing inside the cage, giving Duke a penalty stroke. Chillano struck the one-on-one shot with Jones into the top half of the goal.
Haley Schleicher doubled the lead with a rebound goal less than five minutes later, and the Blue Devils finished the half with a dominant 17-2 advantage in shots.
Iowa flipped the script in the second half, though, taking 10 shots with the help of four corners. Katie Birch put the Hawkeyes on the board with a shot off a corner that got deflected into the net from the middle of the field, and after another Duke goal, Nikki Freeman pulled Iowa within one again on a diving shot resulting from another corner. Both goals the Blue Devils surrendered to Syracuse Saturday also came off corners.
"We want to try different people in different positions just to keep our depth strong as far as corner defense, and that gives everyone an opportunity," Bustin said. "It's not a concern, but I think it’s important that the team reviews them and we can see the details that maybe we’re missing that normally we have."
Both times the Hawkeyes scored, Scherrer had an immediate answer on the other end to erase their momentum. The Chesapeake, Va., native received an assist from Chillano on the right side of the goal for an easy tap-in for the Blue Devils' third score, and she weaved through the defense unassisted to convert a shot in front of the frame less than a minute after Iowa's second goal.
"I do the easy work. I think it’s my teammates that really help me out like Rose [Tynan] and [Chillano] on that one," Scherrer said. "That was pretty much all her. I just dinked it into the cage, so I think I’m just finishing it off."
Scherrer is turning into a dangerous spark off the bench, with five goals in her last five games and the first multi-goal game of her career Sunday. Although she has not started a game, Scherrer is second on the team in goals and points behind Tynan.
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"She’s just gaining more and more confidence and just getting smarter with her play and smarter with the ball," Bustin said. "It’s fun to see her grow into that role."
All six goals of the afternoon came in a 25-minute span from the last eight minutes of the first half to the first 17 minutes of the second half, and Duke's opponent scored at least twice for just the fourth time this season. The Blue Devils will hope to limit those chances when they return to the field at home next weekend against No. 15 Wake Forest and Miami (Ohio).
"We shouldn’t even let those opportunities come about, so that’s what we’ll probably work on this next week," Chillano said. "But credit to our team for getting back on the board after they score."