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Duke field hockey dispatches James Madison with dominant defensive effort

<p>Redshirt junior Sammi Steele contributed to a strong defensive performance from the Blue Devils against James Madison.</p>

Redshirt junior Sammi Steele contributed to a strong defensive performance from the Blue Devils against James Madison.

Coming off a 2-0 loss Friday to top-ranked North Carolina, in which the Blue Devils got off only nine shots, Sunday was a different story. 

After conceding an early goal to James Madison, No. 4 Duke dominated the second half to win in commanding 5-2 fashion at Jack Katz Stadium Sunday. While the Blue Devils bombarded James Madison with 33 shots—19 of which were on goal—the Dukes, found themselves entrenched in their defensive third much of the day, tallying only three shots. 

Senior forward Caroline Andretta scored twice for the Blue Devils. Junior midfielder/forward Margaux Paolino, sophomore forward Libby Thompson and freshman midfielder Kiki Rozemeijer each contributed a goal as well.

“After Friday, we wanted to get back to our game and our attacking mindset,” Andretta said. “Today, we knew the goalie was good, so we wanted to take different types of shots and give her a lot to handle, which we did.”

The Blue Devils (7-3) struggled out of the gate. Duke’s inability to keep possession led to a stagnant Blue Devil offense. Meanwhile, James Madison (2-5) made several forays deep into Duke territory and took advantage when senior forward Ashley Gippe scored off a penalty corner in the sixth minute to give the Dukes an early lead.

But that conversion would be James Madison’s only shot on goal for the first half—the rest of the half belonged to the Blue Devils. A barrage of shots from forwards Olivia Sahaydak, Rose Tynan and Paolino eventually led to a penalty corner of Duke’s own in the 19th minute. After bungling the layoff, junior Jillian Wolgemuth sent a screamer from the edge of the shooting circle toward the goal, which Andretta tipped in to even the score.

Even though the Blue Devils retained momentum from the goal, six saves from sophomore goalkeeper Caitlin Nelson helped James Madison hold Duke scoreless for the remainder of the half. Tied 1-1 at halftime in what should have been a blowout, the Blue Devils were left shaking their heads in disappointment.

“In the first half, I feel that [the players] didn’t respect the opportunity they had to play and continue to build on our game,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “When we brought it to their attention at halftime, I think they agreed. They all wanted to come out and play their game and bring it out to the field in the second half.”

The Blue Devils indeed looked like a different team at the beginning of the second period. The last of three penalty corners within the span of three minutes resulted in a Paolino goal, and the barrage didn’t stop there. Andretta notched her second score of the game off a rebound in the 45th minute, and Thompson scored her first career goal two minutes after that. Nearly the whole Blue Devil squad surrounded an ecstatic Thompson to congratulate her after the goal.

“Scoring and then having everyone around me—that was the best feeling ever,” Thompson said.

To sustain the high volume of shots, Duke moved up many midfielders into James Madison territory, leaving the defense vulnerable to a counterattack. The Dukes took advantage of this when freshman Elfi de Rooij knocked the ball in the cage in a three-on-two situation, but the Blue Devils responded with Rozemeijer’s goal in the 59th minute, assisted by Paolino. All of Duke’s scoring came despite a valiant effort from James Madison’s Nelson, who seemed to be diving to fend off a Blue Devil shot every 30 seconds, en route to 13 saves on the day.

In comparison, Duke’s defense held strong, especially in the second half. The Dukes hardly touched the ball after halftime, and the ball only made it into the Blue Devils’ defensive third a handful of occasions. Although James Madison scored twice, it only managed three shots on goal.

“In the second half, we were a little more front-foot on our defense, winning some interceptions and coming up with the 50-50 balls,” Bustin said. “We just were more alert in the second half, and I was pleased with that defensively.”

Sunday’s win marks Duke’s eighth straight victory against James Madison. The Blue Devils will hope to carry momentum into their next match against Wake Forest at Kentner Stadium in Winston-Salem, N.C., Friday at 5 p.m.

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