CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – The top-ranked Blue Devils dropped their ACC opener at No. 10 Virginia Friday, falling in a 4-1 contest at the Cavaliers’ Turf Field.
Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Sammi Steele, the National Field Hockey Coaches Association’s National Defensive Player of the Week, totaled eight saves but Duke (3-1, 0-1 ACC) struggled to contain the National Offensive Player of the Week in Virginia’s Tara Vittese, who accounted for two goals on the evening.
“The preparation leading up to the game and then the energy in the first 20 minutes was awesome,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “Even with them scoring a goal, we came right back, went on the attack and earned a goal of our own. That was fantastic and I really felt great about it. I just don’t know where it went when we allowed them to gain a little bit more momentum. They fought back a bit harder than us when the game was tied, and when they did that, we just kind of let it get away from us.”
The match opened with a flurry of activity on both attacking ends but neither side would break through until the 23rd minute when Vittese finished on a backhand to put the Cavaliers (4-1, 1-0 ACC) in front. Duke countered within the next five minutes, taking advantage of a corner opportunity to knot the score at 1-1. Sophomore midfielder Haley Schleicher provided the tally, the first of her career.
Virginia regained the lead before halftime, making it 2-1 on a deflection by Greta Ell in the 30th minute.
Steele pushed her save total to five early in the second half but was unable to stop a deflection into the cage by Rachel Robinson of the Cavaliers. Virginia continued to apply offensive pressure, resulting in Vittese’s second goal of the contest a short while later. The Cavaliers’ leading scorer corralled a rebound following a Steele save and sent it high into the corner of the cage to bring the score to 4-1.
Duke earned a pair of penalty corner opportunities inside the final eight minutes but rounded out the game with just five corners to 17 by Virginia. The Cavaliers also held a 29-14 advantage in shots and received eight saves from goalkeeper Carrera Lucas.
“A little bit in the rearview as far as what we let get away, but a great learning experience for us too, especially being the fourth game of the season,” Bustin said. “To have that exposed to us now will really show what kind of team we are when we go back to work tomorrow and try to make the improvements. We’ve got to be able to sustain our kind of game because our game is very good.”
The Blue Devils finish off their season-opening road swing Sunday when they travel to No. 15 James Madison for a 1 p.m. contest. The match will be streamed on MadiZONE HD SportsNet.