An audible “Let’s go, Duke!” reverberated through Jack Katz Stadium Saturday as the 14th-ranked Blue Devils prepared to face off against ninth-ranked Syracuse.
Despite COVID-19 protocol preventing fans from being in attendance this season, there was no shortage of support for Duke, with teammates making up for the lack of a formal audience by cheering one another on throughout the game. But sideline encouragements were not enough to give the Blue Devils the win, as Syracuse’s assertive offense led the Orange to a 2-1 victory. Despite the result, Duke continued to improve throughout the game, following the theme of its season as a whole.
“I think [we just have to] keep trusting the process…we want to win the day and we want to take care of our opportunities on a daily basis,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “And with doing that it is just a matter of still working on executing the details and putting the finish polish on what we’re doing. And I think it just takes a little more time and we’re right there. We are knocking on the door, we just can’t stop believing and we gotta keep everybody healthy.”
Down 2-0 and reinvigorated after a brief recess between the third and fourth quarter, the Blue Devils (3-10, 1-2 in the ACC) entered the final period with their eyes on the prize. Less than two minutes in, freshman midfielder Darcy Bourne sent the ball soaring past Syracuse goalkeeper Emily Streib and into the back of the net off of an assist from sophomore forward Hannah Miller.
The goal marked the seventh of the season for Bourne, so it is becoming a habit of hers to turn heads. Although Bourne was the only Blue Devil to score Saturday, several others put pressure on the Orange (8-4, 1-0) throughout the game.
Following a penalty corner by senior midfielder Lily Posternak in the second quarter, graduate student Eva Nunnink made two attempts at Syracuse’s goal—the first shot was met with resistance from the Orange defense and the second went wide.
Duke’s persistence was not hampered by Syracuse’s unyielding defense, though, as sophomore midfielder Josie Varney followed Nunnink’s attempts up with a shot of her own. However, Varney’s shot also went wide.
“I am extremely proud of the way the team came out,” Bustin said. “I think we grew in the game and we started playing better as the game evolved.”
Syracuse was equally determined with its own offensive strikes. In the first quarter, Orange midfielder Pleun Lammers was able to sidestep Duke freshman goalkeeper Piper Hampsch for an early goal.
And later on in the third quarter, Syracuse junior midfielder SJ Quigley took full advantage of a penalty corner. Freshman Roome Josten gave Quigley the pass off the corner, and Quigley managed to get the ball around Hampsch, earning the Orange another goal.
Although Duke allowed Quigley to score off that penalty corner, Hampsch was ready when the same scenario arose again. The setup was similar, but Hampsch blocked Syracuse freshman Eefke van den Nieuwenhof’s shot with her knee and sent the ball soaring over the cage.
In the final moments of the nail-biting final quarter, Hampsch was pulled from goal and replaced on the field by forward Noor van de Laar in a desperate effort to close the 2-1 gap. Still, the Blue Devils proved unable to notch the equalizer. They’ll look to get back on track this Friday at No. 1 North Carolina.
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“I am really excited about [playing North Carolina],” Bustin said. “I think if we can continue to do some of the things we’ve been doing, and be open and adaptable, I think we are going to be in a really great place come next Friday.”