On a sunny and warm Senior Day in Durham, Boston College, the nation’s second-ranked team, walked into a packed stadium ready to rain on the Blue Devils’ parade. But after an intense week of preparation to reaffirm their potential on the national level, the level of competition didn’t matter. From the opening draw to the final seconds, Duke never trailed.
The seventh-ranked Blue Devils hosted Boston College Saturday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium, where the crew delivered a 16-15 upset against the defending national champions. In a matchup defined by constant cheering from the fans clad in blue, the Blue Devils’ performance throughout was where they needed it to be. Each member of Duke’s roster who saw the field made the most of it, with any errors by the Blue Devils seeing quick resolutions.
“We knew it was going to be a battle, obviously, [Boston College] is a great team, and they can score a ton of goals,” head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “So a big point of emphasis for us… was just a matter of us getting the draw and then being really efficient on offense. And I think when looking at the statistics, we pretty much accomplished that.”
The Blue Devils (15-1, 6-1 in the ACC) nearly held the lead throughout the entirety of the matchup, with the first two goals theirs and a four-point edge heading into the final quarter. But in the last 15 minutes of play, the Eagles slowly caught up to the hosting team. And with 2:40 to go, Boston College’s Kayla Martello hit Duke’s net to tie the game at 15-15.
But Duke didn’t seem concerned. The ensuing play began with the ball in graduate student Catriona Barry’s pocket, and the Blue Devils settled, analyzing how to get the needed point. It was worth the wait, as with less than 20 seconds remaining on the shot clock, senior midfielder Maddie Jenner cut through the eight-meter arc right in front of the goal and, in a swift alley-oop off of the pass from junior attacker Caroline DeBellis, gave Duke a one-point lead. Then, with 1:21 remaining, Duke remained vigilant, taking the utmost care to prevent its opponent from getting to the cage and holding on for the narrow win.
“I think on offense, we really wanted to work them down and make sure we made the smartest decisions. I think running the shot clock down and giving ourselves time to set up in our offense and then really go hard at them to tire the defense out is something we worked on all week,” senior midfielder Anna Callahan said.
After junior Olivia Carner took a lively opening draw control, the Blue Devils wasted no time getting to the 12-meter fan to settle. As Duke passed around, looking for an open shot, senior attacker Eva Greco lost her defender right in front of the goal circle and held up her stick for a pass from Jenner. Catching the pass, the Wilton, Conn., native got the game’s first goal in one quick turn in the opening minutes of play.
Though Boston College (13-2, 5-2) would grab the ball in the next draw through alternate possession, the Eagles wouldn’t hold onto it for long, with a high pass going out of bounds awarding Duke the ball. Again, the Blue Devils found a quick route to the cage, and sophomore midfielder Katie Keller drained it. Boston College would get the next score and continued edging closer to the Blue Devils’ lead. However, Duke kept tallying goals, finishing the first 15 minutes with a three-point advantage. The Blue Devils carried that performance into the final quarter, bringing the score up to double-digits while the Eagles—trailing 14-10 with 15 minutes to play—did their best to hang on.
Ultimately, the visitors closed in on Duke’s lead. In just the first few minutes of the fourth, Boston College went on a 3-0 scoring run. Though graduate midfielder Abby Landry responded by driving to the cage to get Duke another point, Martello’s back-to-back goals after put the Eagles back in the game and gave the Blue Devils a challenge to overcome.
“I think that we needed to do a better job on our own,” Kimel said. “Then not give them easy looks defensively, which is what I think we kind of did. It was hot. Today was a tough day to play—you’re hot, you’re tired. And I think it started to show—we just needed to last you need to outlast them. I think that’s what we did. It was mental toughness.”
The Blue Devils will conclude their regular season Thursday against No. 1 North Carolina at Dorrance Field in Chapel Hill.
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Ana Young is a Trinity sophomore and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 118th volume.