The first half of play was a back-and-forth affair, with Michigan State (5-5) getting on the board first on a score by Heather Howie less than four minutes into the game. However, Duke responded at the 18:44 mark, as Nielsen deflected a ball into the goal off a short pass from sophomore Martine Chichizola. The Spartans' Abby Barker added an unassisted strike five minutes later to give Michigan State a 2-1 advantage at halftime.
The Blue Devils continued to attack the goal in the second period, dominating the time of possession to limit Michigan State's offensive opportunities. Ross registered her first goal of the season early in the second half on an assist from redshirt junior Devon Gagliardi, knotting the score at 2-2. Nielsen then gave Duke its first lead of the game, putting back a rebound for her second goal of the contest and fourth of the season.
"I'm so proud of our girls, head coach Pam Bustin commented. "They came out and played hard in the first half and when we went into halftime I challenged them to focus on scoring and finishing and not to worry about anything else. They came out and did that and it worked out well for us."
Le Marchand was awarded a penalty stroke a few minutes later, expanding the margin to two goals. A strong defensive effort by Duke in the remaining minutes of the period ensured the 4-2 victory.
After totaling 14 shots in the second half, the Blue Devils finished the game with 25 shots and three penalty corners while holding Michigan State to just three shots and two penalty corners in regulation. Junior Ashley Camano recorded one save in goal for Duke, while the Spartans' Molly Cassidy was credited with eight saves.
"I am really proud of them for sticking with it through these five games without any subs. At this point, our fitness level is great and we are excited to have our family back together again."
Sunday's game marked the final of five games where the Blue Devils played without six players due to their participation in the Junior Pan American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico. Sophomores Lauren Blazing and Abby Beltrani along with freshman Aileen Johnson and Hannah Barreca were members of the United States squad while sophomore Jessica Buttinger and freshman Kendra Perrin represented Canada. Both teams competed well in the tournament, earning qualifying slots at the Jr. World Cup with Canada finishing second and the United States finishing third.
Duke will return to action with a full roster next Friday night against Boston College at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. Game time is set for 6 p.m. Live stats and live video will be available for the contest on www.GoDuke.com.