There were less than five minutes on the clock. The Blue Devils were up 14-13 after a free-position conversion from senior Olivia Carner. A victory seemed assured, so close they could taste it. Yet less than three minutes later, Duke’s opportunity to savor the sweetness of a win was dashed, never to be recovered.
Despite a back-and-forth contest, No. 15 Duke fell to No. 16 Yale Tuesday in an electric game that was ultimately decided by a one-goal difference of 15-14. The Blue Devils fought back from an early 3-0 deficit behind a six-goal performance from junior Katie DeSimone, but it was not enough to stave off the Bulldogs. Led by seven goals from sophomore Jenna Collignon, Yale spoiled any hopes of a victory for Duke at Koskinen Stadium.
“The loss itself was disappointing. I felt like we had a chance to win,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel.
With lead changes galore and a game hanging in the balance, it all came down to the fourth quarter. Coming into the final 15 minutes of play with the game tied at 12-12, the contest was far from over. The Bulldogs drew first blood after the Blue Devils’ Katie Keller earned a yellow card that gave Yale a man-up advantage. Sophomore Fallon Vaughn was the one to strike, driving up the middle of the eight-meter arc to put the ball in the back of the net.
Determined to fight to the bitter end, Duke (4-4, 0-3 in the ACC) clawed its way back, even after another yellow was issued to the Blue Devils, this time to Veronica Hineman. DeSimone came up with the first goal to tie the game again at 13-13 after fighting through multiple defenders. Carner followed up with a free-position goal to give Duke the lead 14-13. It was the last time they would hold such an advantage.
The matchup quickly became a game dictated by fouls and cards. Both teams earned their fourth yellows of the matchup, making any penalties for the rest of the game unreleasable upon a goal. For the Blue Devils, it would be their Achilles’ heel. DeSimone was shown the card first, and just after she was let out of the doghouse, Carner committed a foul. The Bulldogs (5-2, 1-0 in the Ivy League) ran with the opportunity, as sophomore Sophie Straka converted on her free-position shot before Collignon called game on her seventh goal of the night.
“I think that we did not do a great job of controlling our play, which led to cards and being down for a good chunk of time,” said Kimel. “We were having a hard time stopping Yale, and it put us in a position where we were on our heels.”
Yale showed from the opening whistle that it was determined to make a statement in Durham. A mere 33 seconds in, sophomore Taylor Lane opened the scoring for the Bulldogs as she fired a rocket past the left shoulder of freshman goalkeeper Madison Drebing. Earning her first career start, the rookie would get no relief, as Lane earned another one shortly before Collignon converted a low bounce shot to put Yale in front 3-0.
After getting over the initial cold feet, Duke started to fight back. Midway through the first quarter, graduate attacker Maddie Jenner scooped up a missed quick stick opportunity from one of her teammates before rocketing it past Yale’s Luanna Summer to get the Blue Devils on the board. While Yale was quick to respond with two more tallies of its own, DeSimone earned her first of the night off a feed from Carner, officially kickstarting Duke’s offensive efforts. Ending the quarter with a 6-4 deficit, the momentum was in the Blue Devils’ favor.
“We were really happy … that our offense really felt and looked like themselves,” said Kimel. “I thought Katie DeSimone … and Olivia Carner … did a great job kind of fueling things.”
Duke scored three unanswered goals to open the second quarter, adding fuel to the fire as the tension began to mount. DeSimone was once again instrumental, wrapping around the left side of the cage early on to even the score at 6-6. Never to be outdone, the Bulldogs responded with four goals of their own, all of which came from the stick of Collignon.
Trailing 10-7, Kimel decided to pull Drebing and put senior Shaye Fitzpatrick between the pipes. To support their new goalkeeper, the Blue Devils mimicked their first-quarter play and picked up steam in the waning minutes of the half. Jenner and DeSimone combined for two more goals to head into the locker room with a 10-9 deficit.
The third quarter exhibited much of the same back-and-forth play, with the teams trading off goals. Collignon drove down the middle to score before Carner and DeSimone converted on free positions. Vaughn dodged past sophomore Kerry Neese to send it flying past the left side of Fitzpatrick, only for senior Caroline DeBellis to even the score back up after a beautiful feed from Carner. Down but never out, it seemed as though Duke could pull a last-ditch effort to eke out the victory.
“This is not where we expected to be at this point in the season,” said Kimel. “But … what we’re kind of preaching to our players is just one day at a time and one game at a time.”
With no respite from tough competition, the Blue Devils will be back in action Saturday as they take on No. 2 Syracuse at home.
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