DURHAM, N.C. - For the 11th time in program history, the Duke field hockey team will appear in the NCAA Tournament as the sixth-ranked Blue Devils earned an at-large bid following a run to the ACC Championship game this past weekend. Duke will travel to Norfolk, Va., and face No. 10 Stanford at 2 p.m., in the first round of the tournament on Saturday, Nov. 12 at the Powhatan Sports Center.
The winner of the Duke/Stanford contest will advance to the second round on Sunday, Nov. 13 to take on the winner of No. 2 seed Old Dominion and No. 15 Ohio State. Old Dominion will serve as host institution for the weekend.
"It was really awesome for the kids," said head coach Pam Bustin, "knowing that they had worked hard and that this day was on its way. It was just a great moment for the team. You go out there to play for a championship. You have to work hard to get there. This team has kept that in mind without really focusing on it every day this season. The fact that we're here now is not really a surprise to this group. It's something I know they worked hard for."
The Blue Devils (13-7, 2-3 ACC) are making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2008 after posting seven wins over top-20 opponents this season. Duke earned the third seed in the ACC Championship, advancing to the finals with wins over Virginia and No. 3 Maryland before falling to No. 1 North Carolina.
The Cardinal fell to California in the NorPac Championship game, but earned an at-large bid after posting a 17-3 record (6-0 NorPac), including six wins over opponents ranked in the top-20. Stanford is making its fourth NCAA Tournament appearance of the past five seasons, most recently facing North Carolina in the 2010 first round.
"We're ready to go," said senior Stefanie Fee. "We were ready to go with whatever bracket we were in or whoever we were going to play. [There was] just a little bit of anticipation, but we're excited. We have all week to work on what we need to work on. We're going to trust the coaches with watching film, but the focus is definitely going to be on us just like it has all season. Whoever we're playing, we're going to play our best."
Duke is 14-10 all-time in NCAA Tournament action. The Blue Devils most recently qualified for the tournament in 2008, defeating Connecticut 2-1 in the first round before falling to Maryland in the quarterfinals, 5-8. The Blue Devils also competed in the NCAA Tournament in 1992, 1996, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, advancing to the semifinals from 2003-06 and making three trips to the NCAA finals from 2003-05.
A week ago, four Blue Devils -Fee, Rhian Jones, Emmie Le Marchand and Samantha Nelson - earned All-ACC honors with Bustin garnering conference coach of the year recognition. The Blue Devils boast one of the top defenses in the country, while also averaging 2.50 goals per game.
This year's NCAA Tournament field includes 16 teams (five automatic bids, eight at-large berths and three play-in winners) competing in a single-elimination format. The NCAA semifinals and championship, hosted by the University of Louisville, will take place Nov. 18-20 in Louisville, Ky.