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Duke fall sports preview: field hockey

Hannah Miller was swallowed up by teammates after her game-winner against Louisville in April of last season.
Hannah Miller was swallowed up by teammates after her game-winner against Louisville in April of last season.

Overview

After a disappointing fall season in 2020 with only a couple wins, the Blue Devils are hoping to change their momentum this year. After coming in clutch during a shootout to take home a win last year against then-No. 3 Louisville, now-junior Hannah Miller will look to continue to lead the team during her third season. Duke has added seven freshmen to the roster, so the team is full of young blood. 

“To watch their continued development before [the freshmen] arrived, knowing they were coming to Duke on the other side, I think everybody did a great job in preparing properly,” head coach Pam Bustin said of the freshmen. “A lot of the girls were here over the summer and were able to train with our training group. I love watching them continue to grow on a daily basis.”

The 2020-21 season was the worst season Duke’s field hockey team has seen since their 7-11 record in 2012. They’ll be more of a David of this year’s Goliath of an ACC in field hockey—Duke is ranked 12th in preseason rankings, below several ACC teams, though the Blue Devils are hoping to exceed everyone’s expectations and once again dominate on the field.

The Blue Devils have been preparing for the loss of Darcy Bourne, who would be in her second year on the team but won’t be playing for Duke this year. She is staying in her home country of Great Britain to train with the national U21 team to attempt to play in the Junior World Cup. As such, the team will have to adjust to play without its leading scorer from last year. With so much young talent and a thirst for victory, this year’s Blue Devils are not to be missed. -Lawson

New player to watch: Josephine Palde

Freshman Josephine Palde was ranked as a top-10 field hockey player in her class by Max Field Hockey. She scored 142 points in high school, and the midfielder is certain to bring offense to a team that has Bourne’s absence to replace. 

“Each of [the freshmen] bring a unique talent to the team and that’s what really makes them such a force,” Bustin said. 

Palde is not the only new player to keep your eyes out for, but it will be hard to miss her on the field. -Lawson

Returning player to watch: Piper Hampsch

Sophomore goalie Piper Hampsh is the returning Blue Devil to see on the field. Her freshman season got off to a slow start with  a save percentage under .600 in the first few games, but as the season went on, Hampsch thrived. She spent much of the summer in Durham, far away from her hometown of Hopedale, Mass., working with Duke Field Hockey alumni to perfect her skills. 

Hampsch had some remarkable games toward the end of last season, particularly a career-high 19 saves against North Carolina, despite the team’s eventual overtime loss. Hampsch started in all 16 games last season and is expected to do the same this season. With her added maturity and skills on the field, she will be a game changer for the Blue Devils. - Lawson

Most anticipated matchup: Wake Forest on Sept. 17 at home

The Demon Deacons are the Blue Devils’ first ACC matchup of the season. No. 11 Wake Forest is ranked just one spot ahead of Duke, so this game should be an even and hard-fought match. Having them be the first ACC game of the season will be a great predictor of how this year’s team stacks up against the rest of the ACC. In addition, Wake Forest was one of last season’s elusive wins. If the team is able to pull out a win against an ACC team this early in the season, spirits are bound to be a lot higher as the team gets into the thick of conference play. -Lawson

Best case scenario

Powered by young talent and a strong second year from goalie Piper Hampsch, the Blue Devils could get into a groove early and win some tough games to propel themselves near the top of the ACC. Even with a good year, though, it’s hard to picture the team capturing a conference or national title. With strong team development, a win or two in the NCAA tournament is certainly within reach. -Hawkins

Worst case scenario

After a difficult offseason again affected by COVID, the team could struggle to jell. Without Bourne, the Blue Devil’s offense could take a major hit, leading to another underwhelming season. If the team is unable to fight through these obstacles, they could quickly find themselves near the bottom of the ACC and finish the season with a first round ACC tournament exit. -Hawkins

Predictions: 

9-7, fourth in ACC, loss in ACC semifinals, loss in NCAA first round -Hawkins

8-8, fifth in ACC, loss in ACC quarterfinals -Lawson

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