For the first time in nearly a month, Duke returned to the friendly confines of Jack Katz Stadium, and the Blue Devils sure missed home.
Coming off an impressive five-game road stretch, including a win against No. 7 Iowa, the second-ranked Blue Devils welcomed Ohio to Williams Field Sunday afternoon, looking to continue their hot streak before ACC play ramps up.
With an aggressive mindset throughout the contest, Duke put on an impressive display in front of the local fans. A 7-0 victory gave the undefeated Blue Devils momentum going into a tough stretch of ranked matchups.
“It feels great to be home, it was a long week,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “It was strange not getting into that rhythm of practice, practice, play, play, but we were able to do a lot of things and it was a great adjustment for the team to get back into the class schedule, back into the routine here at home and get their feet underneath them as we approach a three-week homestand.”
Duke (7-0) came out of the gates looking to attack the Ohio defense, resulting in the Blue Devils having nine more shots on goal than the Bobcats in the first half. Duke moved the ball effectively by using motion and cuts, finding holes in the circle to set up effective angles. This led to a significant amount of activity within the Ohio circle, and Duke received six first-half corners due to its constant movement.
The patience, intensity and unselfish attitude shown by the Blue Devils offensively reflected the growth seen by the coaching staff so far this season. With late second-quarter goals by Leah Crouse and Hannah Miller, Duke took a 2-0 lead to the halftime break.
“With the competition we have had, we keep pushing [the team] to make some changes and improve things and with that comes lulls and dips in the performance," Bustin said. "I think overall, our grit, will to win and ability to overcome those times has been fantastic, so we are going to keep pushing them as long they can keep understanding the progress and the big picture. I think that we have a great chance to keep getting better from game to game."
Early in the third quarter, the Blue Devils quickly shut the door on any potential Ohio (4-2) rally by continuing to control the pace of the game, ending with 16 more shots on goal than the Bobcats. Duke totalled 24 shots, 15 of which were on goal, showcasing a relentless attack. Third quarter goals by Noor van de Laar, Olivia Sahaydak and Miller put the contest out of reach and showed the focus that the Blue Devils maintained throughout.
Miller’s two goals increased her season total to seven, which currently leads the team.
The freshman forward felt that going into the game, Duke would have to put pressure on the Bobcats’ circle to ensure success offensively.
“We knew coming in that they were going to be strong in the circle and they were going to pack their team in there, so we just needed to use the circle and its width and just play our game and get the ball in the back of the cage.”
For the third time this season, netminder Sammi Steele did not give up a single goal, and the communication between Steele and the defenders prevented Ohio from getting on the board. The Bobcats came into the contest averaging 3.6 goals per game, so the Blue Devil defense clearly executed according to the game plan.
Next up for Duke is the first ACC matchup of the season, a home contest against No. 23 Syracuse.
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Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.