CHAPEL HILL—For a while it looked like an ACC tournament semifinal appearance was a realistic possibility.
But in the end, it just wasn’t meant to be.
No. 6 seed Duke took on No. 3 seed Syracuse in the ACC tournament quarterfinals Thursday night at Karen Shelton Stadium, ultimately falling 3-2. After a tense 60 minutes of regulation, the Orange ended the game three minutes into overtime. Still, it was an impressive showing for a team that started the season 0-6.
“I was super proud with our performance overall and the energy in which we came out and finished,” Blue Devil head coach Pam Bustin said.
Overtime was a thriller, as most extra periods are. Sophomore Hannah Miller came inches from clinching the victory less than two minutes in, but her shot was blocked by a Syracuse defender. Immediately after the clutch defensive save, the Orange rushed across the field, and sophomore Laura Graziosi sniped the ball into the back of the cage, ending the game and Duke’s fall season.
The Blue Devils (2-7, 1-4 in the ACC) started off the contest hot. Just a minute in, Miller rushed across the field and into the scoring circle, getting the ball in front of the net. Then, as the ball emerged from the blur of feet and rolled outside Syracuse goalie Syd Taylor’s reach, freshman Alayna Burns dove to her knees to sweep the ball into the goal.
Eight minutes later, freshman Darcy Bourne found the back of the cage with a snipe right off a penalty corner to give Duke an early 2-0 lead.
The Blue Devils tallied six shots in the first quarter while limiting the Orange (5-4, 3-2) to a single shot, looking no part like the underdog they were heading into the game.
“I think our energy and our will to just keep working was fantastic,” Bustin said. “We were very persistent around the goal box, and we got some great things out of it.”
However, Syracuse turned up the heat in the second quarter, racking up five shots, with Graziosi eventually notching her first goal of the game to cut the Orange’s deficit to 2-1.
Then early in the third quarter, Syracuse freshman Eefke van den Nieuwenhof knotted up the score with what ended up being the final goal of regulation.
While Duke was held scoreless for the final 52-plus minutes of the contest, there were some close calls that could have put the game to bed. Early in the second period, junior Olivia Sahaydak took a shot that bypassed the goalie into the cage during a penalty corner, but the shot was called off. In addition, that corner came after a penalty stroke opportunity was recalled. Either of those chances could’ve given the Blue Devils a commanding 3-0 edge.
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Despite the game and tournament not finishing as hoped, Duke has a lot to look forward to. Both of its goals Thursday were scored by freshmen, and fellow first-year Piper Hampsch was an absolute standout in goal. Hampsch faced 11 shots on goal Thursday, totaling five saves and keeping the Blue Devils in the game during the team’s weaker moments.
The story of the season was one of persistence and improvement, with Duke entering the ACC tournament on a two-game win streak after a rough start to the season. Bustin believes in her squad’s ability to carry that performance into whatever kind of season it has in the spring.
“Our season has been one of absolute growth and strengthening and improvement, and fun,” Bustin said. “We're really starting to see the payoff.”
Sasha Richie is a Trinity junior and the Blue Zone Editor of The Chronicle's 117th volume.