Thanks to dominant play from Duke's seniors, the Blue Devils looked to the ACC tournament to find postseason success that has consistently eluded the team.
However, Duke stumbled yet again, leaving the NCAA tournament as the squad's last chance for the season.
After a tough back and forth match, the second-seeded Blue Devils were eliminated by the No. 6 seed Wake Forest Deacons 4-3 in the semifinals of the 2018 ACC championship played this afternoon at North Carolina’s Karen Shelton Stadium.
Senior forward Caroline Andretta led Duke in scoring with two goals. Freshman Leah Crouse knocked in another goal for the Blue Devils while junior Jillian Wolgemuth and senior Rose Tynan each contributed one assist.
“[The team’s performance] was up and down,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “It wasn’t as consistent as we had planned it to be and wanted it to be. So that’s pretty disappointing. There were moments where we judged the game and allowed Wake’s energy to kind of creep into our game plan, and then we took care of it, but it was just too much up and down.”
Duke (15-5, 5-1 in the ACC) went up early in the contest, notching a goal just two minutes and 37 seconds into play after an aggressive offensive strike initiated by a Rose Tynan assist to Caroline Andretta. Tynan’s assist marked the 101st point of her career after she reached the century mark in Thursday’s semifinal win over Syracuse.
The Demon Deacons (11-8, 2-4) answered back with a goal from Grace Sambrook seven minutes after Andretta’s. As the first half wound down, The Duke senior netted her second goal of the day after knocking a rebound out of the scrum and into the net. Wake Forest—a strong penalty corner team—tabbed another goal off of a corner in the 35th minute, sending the battling teams into the locker rooms tied 2-2.
After the break, the Demon Deacons capitalized on another penalty corner, putting in a second chance shot two minutes into the second period. At the 46-minute mark, freshman Leah Crouse secured a goal set-up by junior Jillian Wogelmuth. Unfortunately, the Blue Devils were unable to respond to Wake Forest’s strong performance on penalty corners. The Deacons tabbed another penalty corner in the 57th minute and Duke could not recover despite several frustratingly close chances in the final minutes.
“It was a set piece game today,” Bustin said. “They scored three goals off of their corners, whether it was direct or a rebound. We knew that was their arsenal. Knowing that, instead of stepping up and expecting it and being ready to defend it and not allowing a corner to happen, we were a little bit timid about denying corners. That was, again, disappointing. However, this was a great lesson. You’ve got to come back again, you’ve got to play your best game again and that’s how it is in the postseason.”
As Duke looks to the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils will have to find ways to get back to their strong team game and focus on bringing a national title back to Durham. The NCAA Selection Show will air Sunday on NCAA.com. Duke looks to make its 17th appearance in the postseason event and seventh in Bustin’s eight seasons at the helm with the Blue Devils.
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