After defeating No. 18 Princeton last Saturday on the road, Duke’s excitement for its first ACC matchup of the season was quickly shut down with a loss at home to Wake Forest.
The Blue Devils fell 3-1 Friday to the 15th-ranked Demon Deacons and it was clear that Wake Forest would not be an easy target by the third minute of the game. Sophomore goalie Piper Hampsch held off Wake Forest’s first attempt towards goal after starting with the ball, energizing hopes that she would hold up at Jack Katz Stadium. However, a quick rebound to score on the 17th-ranked Blue Devils a minute after the Demon Deacons’ shot set the tone.
“We allowed them to gain ground and allowed them to gain momentum and allowed them to gain speed,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “They have got some key players that are handy, and you do not want to give them those opportunities.”
Within the first eight minutes, Duke (2-4) was playing a defensive game. The Blue Devils attempted to bounce back from the first goal yet found themselves fighting to retain possession after a corner insert. Wake Forest (3-3) took advantage of Duke’s lack of accuracy in passing and shooting through several interceptions, leading to another goal on Hampsch in the ninth minute.
Defender Lexi Davidson and midfielder MaryKate Neff quickly adjusted the Demon Deacons’ lead just over a minute after. The two first-year graduate students worked in tandem at the goal box to send senior forward Noor van de Laar placing the Blue Devils’ first shot in the net. The energy from scoring seemed to revitalize Duke as it picked up on offense—sending solid, accurate passes toward each other. In a fierce fight to tie against Wake Forest’s willing defense, junior forward Hannah Miller inserted a corner to junior midfielder Kelsey Reznick, who narrowly missed the net by hitting the post.
“I think we had some great opportunities and really started building confidence on how we pass the ball,” Bustin said. “It was the unit effort to get that ball moving to touch passing that made a difference.”
The Blue Devils held off Wake Forest's other goal attempts throughout most of the second quarter, playing back and forth on interceptions and only letting the Demon Deacons get one shot on Hampsch. However, in the last two minutes of the first half, Hampsch’s firm footing in goal was no match for an impossible-to-save shot by Wake Forest, leaving Duke with a two-point disadvantage.
Sloppy passes and hitting the ball out of bounds defined the second half. The Blue Devils struggled to intercept, and when they did, they frequently lost possession within seconds. In each attempt toward the goal, Duke was met with a double-team by Wake Forest, often leaving them to force a shot that was not there.
“Our mental endurance is really important so that we can stay in the game plan throughout the entire game—regardless of scouting reports or regardless of sticking to the fundamental game that we play all the time, and we lost that,” Bustin said. “All of the goals are based off forgetting the fundamental game of hockey.”
Despite Wake Forest’s scramble to further demean the Blue Devils in the second half, Hampsch stood up to save two shots while their defense toiled to deflect four. Duke arguably dominated this half in defense yet lacked the x-factor needed to defeat a team ranked two spots higher than them.
With 11 regular-season games remaining for Duke, Bustin does not believe that this loss sets the tone of what to expect in the remainder of its season and during the conference tournament. In a potential rematch against Wake Forest during postseason play, she plans to adjust so that her team executes the game fundamentally while remaining aggressive.
In their effort to prove that, the Blue Devils will next face James Madison Sep. 19 at the JMU Field Hockey Complex in Harrisonburg, Va.
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“They are a strong, feisty team, a well-coached team,” Bustin said. “We are going to regroup quickly and bring our game—our real game.”