DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke field hockey program wrapped up preseason training Sunday, Aug. 24 with a final exhibition contest against North Carolina at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium.
The two ACC schools squared off in the standard format of two 35-minute periods. Both teams are coming off of successful campaigns in 2013, as North Carolina reached the NCAA semifinals and Duke the NCAA title match.
“It’s always been an awesome rivalry,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “To have it be a respectful competition is really cool ... To come and have such a healthy, highly competitive preseason match is priceless. For our group, we have seven newcomers who have never seen this level of hockey and who endured 70 minutes of this kind of pressure. I’m really excited and happy that we were able to do this today.”
Both squads were aggressive from the opening whistle, with the Tar Heels taking an early advantage in shots and penalty corners. However, a strong effort from the Duke defense disrupted several North Carolina penalty corner opportunities in the first half.
Freshman defender Alexa Mackintire recorded a goal for the Blue Devils on a penalty corner near the end of the first half. The rookie posted her first goal in a Duke uniform with juniors Aileen Johnson and Sarah Urdahl providing assists on the play.
In addition, Duke’s six other freshmen also saw the field during the course of the scrimmage, picking up valuable minutes ahead of this week’s season opener.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Wagner concluded the outing with six saves while Shannon Johnson notched three for North Carolina. The Tar Heels held the overall advantage in shots, 17-8, and led in penalty corners, 9-6.
“I’m really pleased with the leadership that emerged today from some of our seniors and upperclassmen,” Bustin said. “We’re only going to get better and better the more we play because it’s a talented group.”
Following Sunday’s exhibition, the Blue Devils now move into preparations for their first game week of the 2014 season. The squad opens action on the road, facing BIG 10 opponent Michigan State Friday, Aug. 29 at 3 p.m. in East Lansing, Mich. Duke will also take on Central Michigan in East Lansing Sunday, Aug. 31 before returning to Durham for the home opener against Princeton Friday, Sept. 5.