DURHAM, N.C. – Early goals and impressive late saves were the name of the game Friday night, as senior back Alyssa Chillano tallied two scores and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sammi Steele made a pair of heroic stops to lead the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils (11-2, 3-2 ACC) past the No. 12 Wake Forest Demon Deacons (8-6, 2-3 ACC), 2-1, at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium.
“I don’t think there are many teams playing hockey as well as we are right now,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “Our game is a great game. We just have to keep it going more consistent and longer, and then capitalize. Have that finish on both ends. If you’re playing such good hockey, then honor it by taking care of the ball in both circles. We’re just going to keep working to get better at that.”
After a quiet first 13 minutes of play, the Blue Devils struck first thanks to their first corner of the match. Junior Caroline Andretta and sophomore Margaux Paolino set up Chillano for her first goal of the contest, giving Duke a 1-0 advantage. Chillano would strike again nearly eight minutes later on another corner, with Paolino and senior Ashley Kristen assisting on the score to put the home side up 2-0 with the first half winding down.
“In practice, we focused a lot this week on our corners,” Chillano said. “Earning more corners and just knowing how to finish on them. I think we give ourselves great opportunities on our offensive end and we just had to finish them. To get two goals off of corners tonight was really good.”
Wake Forest went on to make a furious push forward in the second half, tallying its first goal at the 57:52 mark to trim the lead to one after a green card would send a Blue Devil off the field. A second green card on the Blue Devils gave the Demon Deacons a two-player advantage.
“If the opponent is down going into halftime, we expect it to be a lot more aggressive and them to make some offensive and attacking changes,” Bustin said. “We’re ready for it. I just think for us, it’s a matter of knowing it and staying to our game. We just have to keep everything moving. It’s when we start standing still and start to get static that we find ourselves getting in trouble.”
The Demon Deacons earned one of their best chances of the night with less than five minutes remaining, but a leaping save from Steele denied the visitors. Steele made a second spectacular save in the waning seconds, as a kick save on a Wake Forest corner with 35 seconds remaining squashed its last chance to even things up and propelled Duke to the 2-1 victory.
“Sammi comes ready to play,” Bustin said. “She works extremely hard at her position and I think she works really hard at working with her defense. She knows when the defense does good stuff, then that’s what they’re doing and when it’s time her time to step up, she’s ready to do it. She had some incredible saves on some great shots by Wake Forest tonight and just stayed in it.”
Duke’s offense held the upper hand throughout the match with a 14-12 advantage in shots, as nine were on goal to Wake’s seven. The Demon Deacons totaled seven penalty corners to five by the Blue Devils.
Steele rounded out the contest with seven saves and Chillano added a defensive save to go along with her two tallies.
Up next, the Blue Devils step back out of ACC play to take on Miami (Ohio) Sunday at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. The 1 p.m. contest will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.