DURHAM, N.C. – The fourth-ranked Duke field hockey team ran into a tough test in top-ranked North Carolina Friday night, falling by a 2-0 score at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium.
The Blue Devils slipped to 6-3 on the season and 1-1 in conference play.
Redshirt junior goalkeeper Sammi Steele made five of her season-high six saves in the second half.
“Really pleased with our ability to get the ball, earn the ball,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “We’ve just got to get a little more poised and a little bit more composure in building our attack. That’s what we do. We build the numbers but we just get really excited and we try to force things in or we try to go one-on-one, and against the No. 1 team or any good team in the country, it’s not going to work.”
The opening 15 minutes of the contest featured back and forth play until the Tar Heels (8-0, 2-0 ACC) broke into the scoring circle for a pair of shots. North Carolina’s Eva van’t Hoog generated another opportunity a few minutes later, but freshman back Grace Kim stepped in for the defensive save – the first of her career.
The Tar Heels kept the ball on their scoring end and found the back of the cage in the 23rd minute on a tip-in goal by Catherine Hayden.
Duke sent in a flurry of shots on an opportunity toward the end of the half but saw three looks turned away by North Carolina goalkeeper Amanda Hendry. The Blue Devils then held strong with a defensive stand of their own on a Tar Heel penalty corner, keeping the deficit at one heading into the intermission.
Steele and the defensive unit kept North Carolina off the board again early in the second half and Duke continued to knock at the door on the other end before the Tar Heels came up with another tally. Following two initial Steele saves on a penalty corner attempt, North Carolina’s Erin Matson finished on the rebound.
“A lot of the shots that they earned were little shots where we won the ball, they got it back and shot a little shot and then we won it and they got it back,” Bustin said. “It wasn’t this barrage of incredible shots that broke our defense; it was out of little things that, frankly, we created. So we’ve got to clean it up and be stronger to get that ball out.”
Nine of the game’s 10 corners came in the second half, with both teams earning five apiece. The Tar Heels held a 20-9 advantage in shots on the evening. Junior midfielder Margaux Paolino led the Duke attack with three shots.
“This is a fantastic team that we played tonight,” Bustin said. “They’re loaded with some great players with a lot of experience. It’s a great challenge for us. We can only be better by playing this type of competition.”
Duke is back in action Sunday to close out Reunion Weekend at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. The Blue Devils host James Madison at 1 p.m. on ACC Network Extra.