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Duke field hockey's season ends with narrow ACC tournament defeat to Wake Forest

Senior captain Hannah Miller kept Duke in Tuesday's defeat to Wake Forest until the very end.
Senior captain Hannah Miller kept Duke in Tuesday's defeat to Wake Forest until the very end.

On All Saints Day, the ball just seemed to bounce for Deacons instead of Devils.

As the afternoon turned to evening, the sun set on Duke's 2022 season with No. 7-seed Duke's 1-0 loss to No. 2-seed Wake Forest in the ACC tournament, hosted at Duke's new-look Jack Katz Stadium. Not only did the Blue Devils' defense effectively limit the Demon Deacons' high powered offense, but Duke completely dominated the game at times, creating an excess of chances. The Blue Devils just could not find that extra creativity around the circle to score the elusive goal.

“We had plenty of opportunities to tie the game and go ahead,” head coach Pam Bustin said after the game.

Duke came out firing on all cylinders in the first half, playing inspired field hockey and taking the game to Wake Forest. In transition, Duke found early success, sprinting at the Demon Deacons' goal with intention. One quick outlet pass found sophomore forward Issy Carey hawking toward the left side of the goal, and her bullet shot was saved by the outstretched pad of Wake Forest goalkeeper Ellie Todd. Senior forward Hannah Miller also pickpocketed the Wake Forest defenders on multiple occasions to jump-start the offense, and was rewarded with a penalty corner for her efforts.

“There have been games where we were a little late to the party,” Bustin noted. “We didn’t want that to be the case anymore.”

However, with only 67 seconds remaining in the half, Wake Forest earned a penalty corner against the run of play. The Demon Deacons flaunted their talent as the best corner-converting team in the ACC, with Grace Delmotte and Lee Ann Gordon perfectly setting up First Team All-ACC midfielder Meike Lanckohr for the shot. The ball ricocheted off a Duke stick and into the back of the net. 

“It was disappointing,” Bustin said of the goal. “But that’s part of hockey.”

Duke continued to find success pressing in the second half. Wake Forest, 14-0 when scoring first on the season, absorbed the pressure and committed fouls to break up Duke’s rhythm. Miller, also a First Team All-ACC selection, dominated all over the blue turf for Duke. She created all sorts of opportunities for her teammates with her nifty stick skills and hustled back on defense to force timely turnovers. It seemed as if no one in Jack Katz wanted to win the game more than she did. 

“She is the engine, she is the heartbeat of the team,” Bustin said of Miller.

And with 1:56 to go in the fourth quarter, a hush fell over Jack Katz as Miller had one last chance to extend her senior season. Duke had just earned a penalty corner, its fifth and final golden opportunity of the day. The pass from Miller found Mary Harkins, who ripped a shot toward the frame. But it was blocked by a Wake Forest defender, and the Demon Deacons earned possession as time ticked down.

“That’s just what we have to work on,” Bustin said, referring to penalty corners. “We’ve got to develop … our danger in those positions.” 

Duke heads into the offseason after another season of steady improvement. Hope remains that the Blue Devils can stay the course down the path toward more ACC success. 

“They’ve grown enormously,” Bustin said of her team. “I’m really looking forward to what this group can do in the future.”

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