NORFOLK, Va. – Duke field hockey is back in the title game.
The Blue Devils (17-6) outlasted top-ranked Maryland, 3-2, to advance to their first NCAA championship game since 2005. Head coach Pam Bustin's squad moves on to face Connecticut Sunday, Nov. 24 at 4 p.m. for a chance to capture the program's first national championship.
Senior forward Emmie Le Marchand paced the attack with one goal and one assist, while redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing and a stalwart Duke defense kept the Terrapins off the board for the final 41 minutes to ensure the semifinal win.
“Our congratulations to Maryland on an amazing season and for making us play one of the best games we’ve had to play all season,” Bustin said. “I’m so proud of all the teams that are here right now, especially the Blue Devils for stepping up and staying on task to get the job done.”
The match opened with a flurry of offensive activity and Duke penetrated the scoring circle in the third minute to capitalize first on a feed from Le Marchand to junior Jessica Buttinger. The goal was Buttinger's eighth of the year and gave the Blue Devils an early advantage before Maryland evened up the score just minutes later on a penalty corner opportunity with Hayley Turner providing the finish.
After Blazing and the defense weathered a couple of dangerous penalty corner plays by the Terrapins, Duke earned a penalty corner of its own midway through the half. Senior Paula Heimbach redirected the hit by classmate Brenna Rescigno for her first goal of the season and second of her career.
The Blue Devils went up by two goals in the 28th minute when Le Marchand tallied her fifth goal of the tournament, putting back her own rebound past Maryland keeper Natalie Hunter. Once again the Terrapins were quick to respond, with Jill Witmer connecting on a cross inside to teammate Anna Dessoye less than a minute later. Neither side scored the rest of the way in the period, sending Duke into the locker room at the intermission with a 3-2 lead.
Shots were even at 8-8 after the first 35 minutes while Maryland led in penalty corners, 3-1.
The Terrapins came out firing in the second half, logging six shots in the first 12 minutes of the period, but Blazing and the defense remained solid against the bevy of attacking pressure. The Blue Devils went a man up at the 11:47 mark when a Maryland player was sent off with a yellow card, setting up a Duke penalty corner with just over nine minutes to play. Freshman Heather Morris sent a shot just wide left of the cage and the Terrapins were once again unable to get past the Duke defense on their own penalty corner a few possessions later. Blazing posted two more saves in the final three minutes to propel the squad to its first NCAA title game appearance under Bustin.
“One of the most important things in a period of pressure like that is you’re just trying to regain control,” Blazing said of the second half. “We were kind of just absorbing their pressure. Being a part of the defense and working with them, they kept the shots pretty easy – low-angle shots or shots from the top of the circle. I thought we came out of it well.”
Blazing finished with 12 saves – including eight in the second half – while Maryland’s Hunter totaled four on the other end. For the match, the Terrapins led in shots 19-10 and held a 6-4 advantage in penalty corners.
Maryland concludes its season with a final record of 22-2.
Sunday’s NCAA championship game is slated for 4 p.m. at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Sports Complex. The match will be streamed live on www.NCAA.com.
--- NOTES ---
- With her goal and assist, Le Marchand moved into fifth on Duke’s all-time career points list with 139 in four seasons. She is also seventh in program history in career goals with 55.
- Le Marchand has now tallied a point in seven consecutive games and has totaled 14 points (5g, 4a) over Duke's three NCAA Championship matches.
- The Blue Devils improved to 18-11 all-time in the NCAA Championship and 2-2 in tournament games against Maryland.
- Duke has previously advanced to the NCAA title match on three occasions – in 2003, 2004 and 2005.