WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - Despite an even game throughout, the Duke field hockey team was unable to overcome a 2-0 Cavalier lead as third-seeded Virginia knocked No. 6 seed Duke out of the ACC Tournament with a 2-1 loss Thursday afternoon at Wake Forest's Kenter Stadium.
For the second time in less than a week, Virginia (16-2, 3-2 ACC) was able to hold on for a slim, 2-1 margin of victory over the Blue Devils. UVa defeated Duke in the regular season finale on Oct. 30 in Durham. In today's meeting, Virginia held a narrow advantage in shots (9-7) for the game, but Duke was able to put five shots on goal to four by the Cavaliers.
"I don't think we played as well as we did last weekend," head coach Beth Bozman said. "but we still had an even game; 9-7 in shots is an even game. [There were] very few shots for either team ... so it was a defensive battle like last week."
The two teams engaged in a defensive struggle throughout the early goings as they combined for five shots in the first half, but Virginia used a penalty corner opportunity at the 18:27 mark to take the one-goal lead. UVa's Michelle Vittese found Elly Buckley for the go-ahead goal.
With a little over two minutes remaining in the first frame, Duke's Tara Jennings nearly knotted the score at one-all, but her shot off a penalty corner was saved by Cavalier goalkeeper Kimstuk. The Blue Devils would not come any closer in the opening period as Virginia would take the 1-0 lead into the intermission.
The Cavaliers added to their lead at the 41:47 mark as Tara Puffenberger deflected the ball in off a pass from Vittese.
Trailing 2-0, Duke would not go down without a fight, and the Blue Devils pulled within one with less than two minutes to play on a goal from senior Susan Ferger. The Columbus, Ohio native tipped in the ball from a deflection off a Caashia Karringten shot.
Yet Duke was unable to net the equalizing score as time ran out and Virginia escaped with the one-goal victory.
"Unfortunately it's the story of the season," Bozman added. "The RPI just came out and we played the hardest schedule in the country and we had one one-goal loss after another. The upside is, we're not graduating any starters. Sarah and Susan will be really missed so they're big losses. We bring back the bulk of the team and add some freshmen. I think we just have to learn from this and find ways to put the ball in the cage."
The Blue Devils finish the season with a 8-11 ledger (0-5 ACC), but faced a grueling schedule that pitted Duke against the top teams in the country every week. The Blue Devils will lose two student-athletes to graduation in seniors Sarah Schoffstall and Susan Ferger, but will return a core nucleus for the 2011 season.
"We just learned how frustrating it was to be in games all season and to dominate games and come away with a loss because we're not finishing," Bozman said. "We're going to focus really hard in the spring on our finishing skills. I think what this has done has taught us to never stop playing. A lot of teams would've folded with the season we've had and this team never stopped fighting. We learned how to fight."