Duke field hockey tallies a pair of shutouts against Wake Forest, Louisville to advance to ACC tournament final

Hannah Miller takes deep breath on a penalty corner against North Carolina.
Hannah Miller takes deep breath on a penalty corner against North Carolina.

The train keeps on rolling to the final stop. With wins against both Wake Forest and No. 10 Louisville this weekend the second-seeded Blue Devils secured their spot in the ACC Championship game Friday. The resounding 2-0 win over Wake Forest Tuesday, which featured nine offensive corners by Duke, was followed by a tight win 1-0 against the Cardinals Wednesday. 

“We kept our composure and we kept to the task of what we set out to do within our game plan,” head coach Pam Bustin said. 

The matchup against Louisville proved the biggest potential barrier for Duke (16-3, 5-1 in the ACC), who barely beat the Cardinals 2-1 back in October, and defense was the name of the game both Tuesday and Wednesday as senior goaltender Piper Hampsch recorded six saves against the Cardinals. Facing four penalty corners in the first 5:04 of the game, Louisville’s offense certainly didn’t make it easy for Hampsch. 

“Our defense in general, as a unit, has really come together and can work so well collectively,” Bustin said. “That just really put a lot of energy into Piper’s role and what she needs to do. She’s been such a fantastic leader back there.”

The only goal Wednesday came at the hands of graduate student Hannah Miller just 53 seconds into the second quarter after a cross from sophomore Alaina McVeigh. Despite the goal, Duke was outshot 10 to six by the Cardinals, with Louisville having seven corners to Duke’s three. Without the strong defense headed up by Hampsch, the Blue Devils wouldn’t have had an offensive chance. 

The win against Wake Forest was less difficult for Hampsch — she recorded her sixth shutout of the season—as Duke outshot the Demon Deacons 17 to four. Duke was aggressive from the start and had two penalty corners in the first five minutes, though neither were successful. 

However, the third offensive corner just seven minutes into the first quarter was successful, as junior Josephine Palde swept in a goal off the rebound. Assisted by junior Issy Carey, Palde put Duke up 1-0 early on and collected her fifth career goal. Remarkably, out of her five goals this season, her goal early against Wake Forest marked her fourth career game-winning goal.

“It just happened. She’s on the field. And she has an opportunity to do it,” Bustin said about Palde’s tendency to step up. 

With the second goal from senior Charlie van Oirschot in the second quarter, Duke collected another shutout win, 2-0, and solidified the matchup against Louisville the next day. Tallying up nine offensive corners in their win against the Demon Deacons, the Blue Devils were able to score on two of them — a fairly impressive ratio. 

“We got the ball on goal,” Bustin said. “We just need to really make sure that we really can play any rebounds or redirections.” 

However, with the first two rounds of the tournament behind them, the Blue Devils find themselves set up for a rematch against No. 1-seed North Carolina. After a 2-1 loss to the Tar Heels last Friday — in which the Blue Devils ceded the top seed in the ACC tournament and the outright season title — Duke will have a chance at redemption against one of its biggest rivals. 

The Tar Heels, who are ranked second in the nation, are a field hockey dynasty and have won four national championships in the last five years. However, having faced North Carolina so recently, the loss is still fresh and room for improvement remains. 

“What came out of that Carolina game wasn’t like this horrible emotional loss,” Bustin said. “It was really a loss where we were like ‘gosh, we did some things that we need to do better next time.’ That’s really refreshing.”

“It’s really positive as we prepare for [North Carolina], that the team has concrete things that they know they need to improve on,” Bustin added. “It gives them focus and confidence to know that they can make some positive changes from only a week ago.” 

The Blue Devils square up against the Tar Heels Friday evening in a contest for not only bragging rights against a fierce rival but also the ACC Championship title. 


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