For the 90th time in history, Duke and North Carolina met for another edition of a fierce field hockey rivalry.

The fourth-ranked Blue Devils succumbed to the top-ranked Tar Heels 2-0 Friday afternoon at Jack Katz Stadium in a tightly contested battle, leaving their overall ledger against their rival at 13-67. North Carolina—which boasts the country’s best goals against average at 0.42—shut down a sputtering Blue Devil offense that was unable to produce solid shots despite dominating possession. 

In the early going both heavyweights traded possession but found no real opportunities. The first shot of the game came from the Tar Heels over 16 minutes in, but was stopped by Grace Kim. North Carolina finally broke through in the 23rd minute when Catherine Hayden deflected a backhand cross from Eva Smolenaars to tally her seventh goal of the season.

“We were pleased with our ability to get the ball and possess the ball but we just need a little bit more poise and composure in building our attack,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “We build with numbers but we just get a little too excited and try to force one-on-ones. Against the number one team in the country or any good team it is not going to work.”

Although the Blue Devil offense made deep runs into Tar Heel territory thanks to crafty play from Margaux Paolino, they were unable to generate a single shot until Paolino got an attempt off in the 26th minute. After some more back-and-forth play, Duke managed to get off four shots in about two minutes between Caroline Andretta, Erin Scherrer and Paolino but Amanda Hendry kept the Blue Devils at bay, making four saves in the half.

Luckily for Duke (6-3, 1-1 in the ACC), it entered the break down just one and held some momentum, averting the only penalty corner of the half by either side as time expired—fending off looks from Mallin Evert and Cassie Sumfest. The defense held strong to start the second half as the Tar Heels pushed the pace and got two shots early off of a penalty corner while Sammi Steele held up in the cage, making five saves in the half, leading to a season-high six saves. 

“I was really proud of the defense. A lot of the shots that they earned were little shots where we won the ball, they got it back and shot a little shot and then we won it and they got it back,” Bustin said. “It was not this barrage of incredible shots that broke our defense; it was out of little things that, frankly, we created. So we’ve got to clean it up and be stronger to get that ball out.”

While the defense held up, the Blue Devil offense struggled once again to generate solid shots. Despite leading the ACC in shots per game at 19.25, Duke was only able to produce nine shots. A critical moment of futility was a series of penalty corner opportunities midway through the second half that led to poor looks and the Blue Devils still searching for an equalizer.

“Another point of great frustration is that we have an amazing penalty attack unit but the consistency and attention in the game has to get better,” Bustin said. “We just have to get better at execution and people have to execute their role.”

While Duke struggled on its end, North Carolina (8-0, 1-0) took care of business with Erin Matson scoring off a deflection following a penalty corner with just over 20 minutes remaining. That tally was the final score, leaving the contest at 2-0 in favor of the visitors.

The Blue Devils will look to regroup quickly, facing James Madison Sunday at home. Duke has won the previous seven meetings and will hope to continue that streak against one of the easier opponents on their grueling schedule.

“This is a fantastic team that we played tonight,” Bustin said. “They are loaded with some great players with a lot of experience. It is a great challenge for us. We can only be better by playing this type of competition.”