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'They really competed': Duke field hockey's upset bid at No. 1 North Carolina falls just short

Freshman goalie Piper Hampsch notched a career-high 19 saves in the defeat, more than double her previous career-high.
Freshman goalie Piper Hampsch notched a career-high 19 saves in the defeat, more than double her previous career-high.

Hearts were broken Friday afternoon.

No. 15 Duke was the undisputed underdog heading into its matchup at No. 1 North Carolina, a team that has lost only one time since the beginning of the 2018 season. However, what looked like it could’ve been a blowout instead turned into a tight, exciting game as the two teams played hot-potato with the lead until Duke tied the contest for the final time halfway through the third quarter. 

Ultimately, though, the Blue Devils fell 4-3 for their fourth straight loss, as the Tar Heels clinched the win on a penalty stroke in double overtime. North Carolina’s victory keeps its perfect 33-0 record at Karen Shelton Stadium intact dating back to that 2018 campaign.

“They really competed, from start to finish,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said of her team. “We're competing against the No. 1 team in the country, we're doing it at their field, on [North Carolina’s] senior day, with a few injuries, and…with some of the tough losses that we've had recently, it was really impressive and encouraging the way that the team came in and competed.”

That competitive drive was palpable from the entire roster, but from no one more so than freshman goalie Piper Hampsch. The Massachusetts native was phenomenal, tallying a career-high 19 saves—more than double her previous career-high—including five in the second overtime to give the Blue Devils (3-11, 1-2 in the ACC) a fighting chance. Halfway through that second overtime period, Hampsch delivered a save that will surely go on a highlight reel, as she dropped into the splits to block a low snipe and stave off the Tar Heels’ victory. 

“She just continues to learn,” Bustin said of Hampsch. “I mean, probably the hardest thing for a goalkeeper is consistency, right, because you're always facing something different and there's always pressure…. But I couldn't be more proud and happy and satisfied with what she’s bringing into the games.”

Another notable Duke performance came from senior forward Libby Thompson, who scored her first goal of the season to tie the game 1-1 early in the second quarter. The Blue Devils made a great push out from their defensive end, where Thompson collected a long pass and carried the ball all the way to the scoring circle while flanked by a Tar Heel defender. She took the shot immediately upon stepping in the scoring circle, and almost as soon you heard the clang of the ball hitting the back of the cage, Thompson was jumping in the air and getting hugs from teammates as they celebrated her milestone. 

Just a few minutes later, freshman midfielder Darcy Bourne notched her team-leading eighth goal of the season to put Duke in the lead 2-1. But after a pair of goals from North Carolina (13-1, 2-0) and the Blue Devils’ equalizer in the third quarter, both teams failed to tally a goal in the fourth—the Tar Heels likely should have, receiving seven penalty corner opportunities in that final period, but Duke’s impeccable defense in those situations pushed the game into overtime. 

In overtime, things got interesting. 

After playing largely clean games in regulation, both teams drew cards: a green card for North Carolina near the end of the first overtime and a yellow card for Duke that put the visiting squad down a player down for five minutes in the second. However, the defense for both teams didn’t budge. Even as the Blue Devils took control in the first overtime and the Tar Heels played with an advantage for half of the second, neither team could get an edge over the scrappy, aggressive play of the other. 

“You’ve got to be a little bit more crafty and a little bit more resilient [in overtime], but I couldn't believe that we played so well…. A lot of that has to do with just the team's determination,” Bustin said. 

Despite impressive play from the underdogs, it all came down to one moment. Seven minutes into double overtime North Carolina was awarded a penalty stroke, where an attacker goes one-on-one with the opposing goaltender, and in a sudden death overtime that spelled the end for Duke. There was nothing Hampsch could do to stop the shot, and the Blue Devils headed home with a loss. 

Nevertheless, Bustin said she’s proud of the work her team has put in, especially after going toe-to-toe with the best team in the country.

“We're continuing this process of building a field hockey team that's going to sustain a few seasons, not just one or two games…. We grow a little and we’re going to be all right,” Bustin said.

Duke will look to rebound next Saturday at home against No. 5 Louisville in its penultimate match of the regular season.

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