LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Playing in overtime for the second time in as many days at the 2017 ACC Championship, the second-seeded Blue Devils put together an impressive performance in 100 minutes of action but ultimately fell to host Louisville in an overtime shootout, 3-2.
“Incredibly proud of the level and the quality of hockey we played today,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “From start to finish, we stayed with the game plan that changed as the game went on. We kept changing up what we had to do and they did it, they did it well and they did it at an extremely high level. No matter what went through the interchange, we were strong and I was really proud of that. I was proud of the energy and the belief that they had from start to finish and the enjoyment that they played with today. They really fought with enjoyment and it was so fun to watch.”
For the contest, Duke (16-3) led in shots by a 31-8 margin, placing 20 of those looks on goal. Bustin’s squad also earned 11 penalty corners to two by the Cardinals.
Louisville goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran racked up 18 saves in a career-high outing.
“Great credit to Louisville for playing their game, which is a really well-structured game,” Bustin said. “Their goalkeeper – it was probably one of the best goalkeeping performances anyone has ever seen – was clearly the difference-maker.”
Trailing 2-1 in the final minute of regulation, Duke pushed forward to create one final opportunity on the attacking end. Senior Ainsley Gill played a ball in from the top of the circle, and classmate Ashley Kristen redirected it into the cage to tie up the game with 25 seconds remaining. The 2-2 score would hold through the end of regulation, sending the semifinal match to overtime.
The Blue Devils recorded eight shots in the first overtime period and weathered a couple of Louisville trips into the circle. McFerran continued to hold strong for the Cardinals, and the score would remain tied at the end of the first overtime period.
Kristen earned the first look for Duke in the ensuing overtime period before Louisville created a dangerous opportunity on the other end. The Blue Devils sent a flurry of shots toward the Cardinals’ cage again toward the end of the period, but none made it past McFerran and the teams headed to an overtime shootout.
Both sides successfully converted on their first two attempts in the shootout before Louisville gained an advantage at 3-2. Senior Alyssa Chillano came through with a goal and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sammi Steele followed with a stop on the Cardinals’ next attempt. However, the final round went in Louisville’s favor, sending the Cardinals to the tournament’s title match.
“I loved that they continued to find ways,” Bustin said of her team’s attacking mentality. “Some of the shots were world-class shots – quick shots and double shots and rebound shots. We had opportunities in overtime and McFerran was able to clearly play the ball. Obviously, a goalkeeper who’s hot like that – you don’t really want to go into shootouts, but I was extremely proud of the way we played shootouts.”
Duke brought the attacking pressure from the opening whistle but it was the Cardinals who would break through first in the final minutes of the half. Louisville drew two consecutive penalty corners, and despite two initial saves from Steele, got on the board when Marisa Martin Pelegrina pushed a rebound into the back of the cage.
Junior forward Rose Tynan generated one final look for the Blue Devils before halftime, but Louisville’s McFerran was there for her eighth save.
McFerran was solid to start the second half, keeping Duke scoreless on two more corner opportunities. The Blue Devils continued to trail until Chillano finished on a corner attempt in the 57th minute. Seniors Stephanie Pezzuti and Kristen picked up assists on the equalizing tally.
The Cardinals responded a short while later, going back in front on a Minout Mink goal. An ensuing video review of the play was deemed inconclusive, giving Louisville the lead with about nine minutes remaining.
“It was a great game as far as excitement and a great game as far as the performance of their goalkeeper,” Bustin said. “For us, it’s a great measure of how talented we are and what we can still do just to make sure we finish the game. Playing that kind of hockey is awesome.”
The Blue Devils now await Sunday’s NCAA Selection Show, slated for 10 p.m. on NCAA.com.