DURHAM, N.C. – The ninth-ranked Blue Devils rallied from a two-goal deficit but could not hold off No. 13 Northwestern, falling to the Wildcats by a 3-2 score Friday evening in non-conference play at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium.
With the loss, Duke dropped to 5-2 overall and 1-2 against ranked opponents, while Northwestern improved to 8-1.
The Wildcats set the tone of the match early, challenging Duke with a physical style of play. The visiting team would use that momentum to its advantage, scoring in the 10th minute on a rebound goal by Tara Puffenberger.
Northwestern continued to earn penalty corner opportunities throughout the first half, and went up by two goals in the 22nd minute when Puffenberger assisted Nikki Parsley on the squad’s fifth corner. At halftime, the Wildcats led in shots, 11-1, and in penalty corners, 7-1.
“Northwestern came out with a real physical, aggressive style of play and that caught us on our heels,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “We paid the price for it … [At halftime] I said if you’re going to come out with energy, then we need to make sure we’re up in our lines and that we’re setting the play first instead of reacting to it.”
The Blue Devils came out with increased intensity after the intermission, converting that drive into an Aileen Johnson goal 42 seconds into the period to cut Northwestern’s lead to 2-1. The putback tally was the first of the season by the sophomore midfielder.
Duke continued to have its chances, recording five of its six penalty corners in the second half. The defensive unit held strong on the other end through several more penalty corner opportunities by the Wildcats, setting up a strike by freshman Heather Morris in the 59th minute on assists by senior Emmie Le Marchand and junior Abby Beltrani which knotted the game at 2-2. However, Northwestern would answer just over three minutes later, capitalizing on a chaotic play right in front of the cage to come away with the 3-2 decision.
Northwestern finished with a 22-10 advantage in shots and led in penalty corners by a 16-6 margin.
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing posted a career-high nine saves in the loss, while Maddy Carpenter totaled three saves for the visiting Wildcats.
“I thought we made some great adjustments in the second half and actually had a game in the second half,” Bustin said. “I think they had their eyes opened up … This is a good lesson before we get into conference play that you’ve got to step it up like that every game from the first whistle.”
The Blue Devils close their four-game homestand Sunday, Sept. 22 when they host non-conference foe Radford at 1 p.m. The match will be streamed live on GoDuke.com Inside Access.