DURHAM, N.C. – Senior back Alyssa Chillano fired home two goals off of penalty corners as the second-ranked Blue Devils beat fifth-ranked North Carolina, 3-2, Friday night at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. Duke improved to 4-2 in ACC play and 13-2 overall with the victory – the squad’s 10th in the last 11 games.
Junior Rose Tynan added a tally in transition early in the second half that would prove to be the game winner, and redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sammi Steele made six saves as the Blue Devils held off a late charge by the Tar Heels in the teams’ regular season ACC finale.
“Sammi is just doing her job, which is awesome,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “Our flyers did an awesome job flying out on the corners – Ainsley [Gill] and Erin [Scherrer], and everybody just cleaned up the rest … Really proud of the entire team’s work on the defensive end today. We’re just building our confidence and, as a group, working together to contain the space and then be ready to make a play on the ball when it was time.”
Playing as the visiting squad on their own turf, the Blue Devils put up a strong defensive front from the opening whistle, holding North Carolina scoreless through the first half. Steele started off the contest with a diving stick save at the front post to deny the Tar Heels’ Feline Guenther, and Duke capitalized on the other end, scoring on its second corner opportunity. Chillano finished on assists from junior Caroline Andretta and sophomore Margaux Paolino to put the Blue Devils in front 14 minutes in.
Chillano found the back of the boards again on a corner play in the 32nd minute. Her sixth goal of the season came on assists from Paolino and senior Ashley Kristen, and Duke would head into the locker room at the break leading, 2-0.
“We’ve been working hard on recognizing when it’s time to try to earn a corner fairly, and when it’s time to take a shot,” Bustin said. “Our corners are working and our corners are clicking. So the more we can try to draw, it increases our chances of scoring.”
The Tar Heels got on the board just two minutes into the second half when Eef Andriessen put away a ball from teammate Marissa Creatore. The Blue Devils wasted little time in generating a response, scoring in transition following a North Carolina penalty corner. A long pass from Paolino found its way to Kristen, who made a run up the right side of the field and crossed to Tynan at the front of the cage, putting Duke’s lead back at two.
The Blue Devils’ defensive unit weathered a series of consecutive North Carolina corner attempts before Guenther’s second tally pulled the Tar Heels back within one at the 65:14 mark.
Duke held off North Carolina in the final five minutes of play to earn the critical ACC win.
“Each game we play means something, and this one being at the end of the season means a little more,” Chillano said. “It’s good we came home with the win tonight. It means a lot – ACC win and regional win.”
Kristen and Paolino recorded two assists apiece as the Blue Devils scored on two of their three penalty corners on the evening. The Tar Heels held a 10-3 advantage in that category and led in shots, 18-6.
The Blue Devils close out the weekend on the road, traveling to Lynchburg, Va., to face Liberty Sunday at 1 p.m. The non-conference contest will be streamed on ESPN3.