The Blue Devils may have been playing on Halloween, but when you’ve got “Devil” in your name, you don’t get scared easily.
Duke played with poise and secured its second straight victory, taking down Virginia 2-0 Saturday afternoon at Jack Katz Stadium. The Blue Devils entered the matchup at risk of going winless in the ACC for the first time since 2012, but have continually improved as the season's progressed, and Saturday was no different.
“Today was a great game,” head coach Pam Bustin said after the contest. “Statistically, it was dead even, which shows you how close it was both ways. But the feeling of it—I thought the Duke energy was fantastic. And our composure just keeps improving. And, to me as a coach, that's just a sign of us getting in the game and not only playing hard, but trying to play smart. So I'm really proud of that improvement and that progress that we're making.”
In Duke’s previous match against Wake Forest, two players scored their first goals of the season (and their Duke careers): graduate student Eva Nunnink and freshman Darcy Bourne, neither of whom are forwards. And, once again, it was this duo that made their mark in the scoring category against Virginia (3-6, 2-3 in the ACC), each scoring their second goal of the season.
While it was Nunnink who scored first against Wake Forest, it was Bourne who drew first blood on Halloween, converting an early corner opportunity just two minutes into the game, giving Duke (2-6, 1-4) a lead it wouldn’t relinquish all afternoon.
“Darcy is a very dynamic attacking field player,” Bustin said. “She has that skill to go both sides of the ball. Being a midfielder, she can really push it forward, and she can hold and do what she needs to defensively.”
Much of the rest of the first half was marked by a back and forth in the middle of the field for both teams, with neither squad coming up with a good look at the goal. That is, until Nunnink decided she wouldn't be bested by a freshman.
With less than four minutes to go in the half, the Blue Devils found themselves with another corner opportunity. Sophomore Hannah Miller put it in play, senior Lexi Davidson corralled the ball and Nunnink easily scored the open look, giving Duke a 2-0 advantage.
Despite five corner opportunities and seven shots in the first half, Virginia was never very cavalier with its approach and couldn’t put the ball between the posts. Duke freshman goalie Piper Hampsch only had to make two saves in the first half, and none in the second half, as the Blue Devil defensive unit blocked and cleared most of Virginia's attempts before Hampsch even had the chance to touch them.
“Virginia had seven [total] attack corners and our defense held strong in there,” Bustin said. “The work is paying off and the diligence that the kids are putting into their roles, and what we're doing together as a unit, is really starting to show. It just bodes to the work that the team has done, and hopefully continues to help us feel confident moving forward.”
In the second half, both teams began to stall on offense. After seven corner opportunities for Duke in the first half, the home team had none in the final 30 minutes.
In similar fashion, the Cavaliers only had two corner opportunities and four shot attempts in the second half, none of them on goal. A few errant pass attempts by the Blue Devils gave Virginia prime opportunities to get something going on offense, but the Duke defense continued to hold strong.
“We want to be courageous and to see things and to try things,” Bustin said. “And fortunately today, some of those passes we didn't pay the price for. The team covered for each other and played with one another. And that's the kind of stuff that encourages that courageous play down the road when we're making better decisions with the ball.”
Originally scheduled to take place on the Blue Devils' home field, the upcoming ACC tournament will now be played at North Carolina after Duke raised health and safety concerns regarding the proximity of Jack Katz Stadium to a student residential area.
Duke will head into the tournament as the conference's sixth seed, taking on third-seeded Syracuse in the ACC quarterfinals Thursday at 7 p.m. The Blue Devils lost to the Orange 4-3 in their lone matchup Oct. 10.
“COVID has taught us to be pretty flexible,” Bustin said of the tournament's change in location. “And COVID doesn't really give us many surprises anymore. So we're just gonna roll with it. We're gonna go down the street—we're fortunate that it's just 10 miles away. So yeah, we're just gonna go with it."
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