With a chance to snag their first-ever national title, the Blue Devils have known that they'll need to hold form from the regular season if they want to ride momentum through the final two weekends of their 2017 season.
Despite a defensive hiccup in the second half of their opening-round contest, Duke did just that.
The second-seeded Blue Devils toppled Miami (Ohio) 4-2 in an NCAA tournament Round of 16 game at Jack Katz Stadium Saturday afternoon. Although the RedHawks came close to knotting the score thanks to a pair of timely corners, Duke maintained control late with the help of an offense spearheaded by junior Rose Tynan.
“We were prepared for exactly the kind of game we had today,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “They're playing with a lot of passion and a lot of speed—everyone is giving it all—and that's exactly what they brought us today. They challenged us in a lot of ways today that made it a really great game.”
The Blue Devils (17-3) rocketed to an early lead just six minutes in thanks to a surge from Tynan and senior Ashley Kristen. Tynan sliced through Miami’s back line, forcing RedHawk goalkeeper Maddie Passarella out of position. Tynan crossed to a wide-open Kristen, who put the ball away for a 1-0 Duke advantage.
Although Miami (12-9) limited the Blue Devils’ chances the rest of the half, Tynan yet again gave Duke a golden opportunity in the final five minutes of the period. While the Blue Devils were pressing deep into RedHawk territory, a Miami back misjudged a pass and launched the ball right to Tynan.
The Duke forward then charged at the post and collided with Passarella, leaving the goal wide open. Junior Erin Scherrer recovered the ball and tapped it in, putting the Blue Devils in a comfortable position going into the second half.
“We knew that [Miami's] goalie likes to come out really fast, so we were working this week on how to score and how to get around her," Tynan said. "We were trying to pass around her and make the goal bigger."
The RedHawks, however came out of the locker room with a vengeance.
Miami immediately put the pressure on Duke with two shots on goal and a corner in the first three minutes of the period. Luckily for the Blue Devils, their highly-touted back line quickly kicked into gear, forcing shots wide and keeping the RedHawks scoreless through nearly an hour.
At the 51st minute, Tynan finally notched a goal for herself thanks to a chaotic Miami back line. With both teams clashing, Tynan lined up a wide-open shot to catch Passarella off guard, rocketing the ball to the back of the cage and further widening Duke’s lead.
“Our pressing lines were great, I thought our midfields did a great job squashing and containing their attacking, and especially in the counter, we were able to shut it down there,” Bustin said. “Second half, they were able to make a couple of runs—they made some personnel changes in their lineup—which created a different attack look for us, but once we figured it out, we were fine.”
But just before the Blue Devils could start celebrating a spot in the Elite Eight, the RedHawks began to chip away.
With 15 minutes left, Miami earned a corner. The initial shot from RedHawk junior Paula Portugal was blocked by Duke goalkeeper Sammi Steele, but a follow-up from Miami’s Lexi Silver found the back of the net to finally put the RedHawks on the board.
Just five minutes later, Miami earned back-to-back corners, putting the Blue Devils in hot water. Although the first corner was staved off, the RedHawks adjusted for the second. Miami’s Estel Roig spiked a pass to teammate Henni Otten, who shot right through Steele, trimming the gap to just one.
Duke finally shut the RedHawks down with a final goal for the last three minutes of the match, though. Sophomore Margaux Paolino ran straight through Miami’s back line to pass to junior Caroline Andretta. The New Vernon, N.J., native launched a clean shot right through the post to seal the Blue Devils’ first victory in the NCAA tournament.
“I'm proud of the way we came out, the way we possessed the ball and the way that we kept our structure, which was part of the plan and something we fight to do every game,” Bustin said. “We lost it for a little bit—a couple unfortunate corners in the second half—but for us to come back after and score another goal, that fourth goal was a big deal.”
Duke will return to Jack Katz Stadium Sunday at 2 p.m. to continue its postseason run against Maryland.
“It's one day at a time, and that's what we had to do is take care of today,” Bustin said. “I was pleased that we were challenged and pleased that we were able to withstand it and overcome some of the challenges and learn from it. At this point, you take what you can learn, be better, regroup and start again the next day.”
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