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No. 2 Duke field hockey stunned at home by Princeton, capping 2-loss weekend

Leah Crouse notched two goals for Duke in the losing effort.
Leah Crouse notched two goals for Duke in the losing effort.

Less than 18 hours after Duke’s football team lost in heart-wrenching fashion to Pittsburgh, the Blue Devils’ field hockey squad found themselves in much the same position Sunday afternoon. 

After losing to No. 1 North Carolina Friday evening 2-0, No. 2 Duke looked to bounce back against No. 12 Princeton at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. But as the band Survivor would tell you, the eye of the Tigers prevailed in Durham and the Blue Devils could not rise to the challenge of their rival, losing 5-4 in overtime after leading for most of the contest. 

“Extremely disappointed in having the lead that we had and the beautiful goals that we scored to just let it slip away,” said Duke head coach Pam Bustin.  “With honestly some poor attention to detail and going off game plan that was working. So a lot of frustration in that way.”

With less than a minute to go in the fourth quarter and up by a goal, Duke looked like it was going to close it out and win its seventh game this season against a ranked opponent. The Blue Devils had held Princeton (7-4) without a goal for over 20 minutes, but couldn’t hold up any longer, as Princeton’s Clara Roth put one past Duke’s star keeper Sammi Steele to tie the game up.

In overtime, the Tigers were all over the Blue Devils (8-3). Duke had neither a shot nor a corner in overtime. Princeton had three of each, leaving it only a matter of time before it broke through. And, with four minutes and four seconds left in the first overtime period, the Tigers found their opportunity, sliding it past Sammi Steele for the golden goal and the win, marking their fourth unanswered goal.

“I think there was an element of annoyance within the group to even be in that position where one goal would tie it,” Bustin said. “But you got to get over that, that’s the game, you’ve got to play the game to the end, you’ve got to play what you have, you have to understand your opponents are playing the game to the end and finish it out. Finish it out with authority, so I think that annoyance carried over into overtime which is too bad.”

But it shouldn’t have been this tightly contested. The Blue Devils dominated much of the game, particularly the second quarter. After falling behind 1-0 when an unfortunate deflection found its way to Princeton in the backfield who then easily capitalized, the Blue Devils looked like a different team. Sophomore midfielder Noor van de Laar opened up the scoring for Duke off a rebounding corner and assist from Margaux Paulino. Five minutes later, fellow sophomore Leah Crouse added on a goal of her own, breaking the tie.

Just 27 seconds later, van de Laar founds the space between the posts again and the Blue Devils were cruising, up 3-1 and looking like the offensive threat they’ve shown they are earlier in the season. That wasn’t enough and Crouse decided she wasn’t going to let van de Laar be the only multi-goal scorer of the game. Crouse took it up toward the goal, moved around a defender and shot from the middle of the circle to give Duke the three-goal lead. This nine-minute span of goals marked career-highs in goals for both van de Laar and Crouse. 

“We went to the game plan, we passed and we moved and we joined and we were taking the ball at angles,” said Bustin of this span of scoring. “[Princeton is a] very linear team, [a] big ball team, [and] we started intercepting the big balls and playing them on the opposite side. Things that we talked about doing were really working and you know honestly it was 6-0 Duke in the beginning because we created those opportunities Princeton capitalized on.”

Princeton was finally able to stop the bleeding with just over two minutes to go in the second quarter, deflecting a ball off a corner shot and bringing them within two of tying it, which would turn out to be just enough for them to bring the win back to New Jersey. 

It was a game characterized by defensive mistakes for the Blue Devils, with both of the Tigers’ goals in the first half coming off lapses in judgement by Duke. The five goals was the most goals Blue Devils have allowd all season and the most they’ve given in nearly a year, since losing 5-2 to North Carolina Oct. 21st of last year. 

“Hopefully we gave Princeton a few of the goals that we would have given up the next three games,” said Bustin. “So hopefully we can turn that around and we will. We’ll figure out what the breakdown was and why. And they’ve [Duke] got to make some decisions to commit to it for a full 60 minutes.”

The Blue Devils will be left searching for answers this week to their defensive woes as they prepare for their upcoming home ACC matchup against Wake Forest Friday, hoping to prevent falling to 0-3 in conference play and losing three games in a row for the first time since 2011.

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