After a blowout victory against Appalachian State last Sunday, Duke went into Friday's contest with confidence.
However, Virginia held tough and forced the Blue Devils to dig deep to eke out a win.
No. 4 Duke defeated the 18th-ranked Cavaliers in a 1-0 nail-biter Jack Katz Stadium, extending its win streak to five. Unlike in its annihilation of the Mountaineers, the Blue Devils' offense struggled out of the gates. The team failed to record a single shot until just before the 14th minute, and was without a shot on goal until the 17:47 mark.
“We made some impatient mistakes at times, but I think that’s the learning process,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “It was a matter of how we were going to find an opportunity and then capitalize on that opportunity.”
Eventually, Duke (10-3, 3-1 in the ACC) started to find its groove, totaling seven shots before the half ended, five of which were on goal. None of those shots found their way into the cage, though, as Bustin's squad was held scoreless through the first 35 minutes.
The Blue Devils' defense, meanwhile, limited Virginia (4-7, 1-4) to no shots for almost the entirety of the first period. Senior Cavalier midfielder Greta Ell had a breakaway with a chance to put the visiting team ahead, but Duke goalie Sammi Steele stopped the attempt with an exceptional diving save to keep the score knotted at 0-0 entering halftime. Still, the Blue Devils needed to come out of the break with a different mindset.
“We said we wanted to have a killer instinct,” senior forward Rose Tynan said. “We did not really have that in the first half.”
The Blue Devils did just that as the second-half began, as Tynan scored 57 seconds into the period off an assist from junior Margaux Paolino. The score marked the Auckland, New Zealand, native's team-leading 10th goal of the season and Paolino’s team-leading eighth assist.
“It’s definitely nice,” Tynan said of scoring the game-winning goal. “I don’t really care who scores up there—we’re all working really hard.”
Less than five minutes later, the Cavaliers had a chance to tie up the score with the ball right in front of the cage. But Ell missed her second shot of the evening, sending the ball high, and the Blue Devils survived another risky threat. Duke then took six consecutive shots from six different players in the next 10 minutes in an attempt to extend its lead, but to no avail. Four of the shots were saved by Virginia goalie Carrera Lucas, while the remaining two launched wide. Then, with 20 minutes left in the match, the Cavaliers’ offense finally started to come alive.
Within the next 10 minutes, Virginia took seven shots, more than quadrupling its total for the game. But none of them put the Cavaliers on the board, as five second-half saves from Steele kept the score at 1-0. Duke then used the momentum of its defensive stops to close out the victory.
“I think that built a little bit of confidence when we did finally win it,” Bustin said of the Blue Devils’ ability to contain Virginia’s second-half surge. “[We needed to] slow it down as far as possession-wise, get our structure back and then take it from there.”
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Overall, Duke totaled six saves and 10 shots on goal. Tynan was joined by senior forward Erin Scherrer and freshman forward Olivia Sahaydak as the only Blue Devils with multiple shots on goal. In comparison, the Cavaliers totaled just six shots on goal but were carried by Lucas’ nine saves. The Virginia redshirt senior leads the ACC with 5.2 saves per game.
Duke will travel to Norfolk, Va., with a chance to extend its win streak to six against No. 22 Old Dominion. The Blue Devils hope to ride their current momentum as the season enters its most important stages.
“I think just what progress we can make in the next few weeks,” Tynan said of what the team looks to accomplish in the immediate future. “[In the] postseason I think we can do quite well, so I’m looking forward to that.”