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Courtesy: Keith Lucas
Cherry Seaborn
Duke Falls to UConn, 2-0, in NCAA Title Match
Courtesy: Duke Sports Information
Release: 11/24/2013
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NORFOLK, Va. – The fifth-ranked and fourth-seeded Duke field hockey team concluded a historic season with a 2-0 loss to fourth-ranked Connecticut in the NCAA championship game Sunday afternoon at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Sports Complex.

Head coach Pam Bustin’s squad finishes the 2013 campaign with a final record of 17-7 after advancing to the title match for the fourth time in program history and the first time since 2005. The 17 victories are also the most by a Duke team since the 2005 season.

“Congratulations to the University of Connecticut, not only on a great season but obviously a fantastic final four,” Bustin said. “Well done for Coach Stevens and the fantastic year they had.”

After more than 10 minutes of back-and-forth play occurring mostly in the midfield to start the contest, senior defender Paula Heimbach set up junior forward Jessica Buttinger on the far side of the field for the first penalty corner of the day. The shot on the play was waived off but the Duke defense held up on the other end against a penalty corner opportunity for the Huskies. Led by the stick of senior Brenna Rescigno, the Blue Devils put four shots on goal on corner plays in the first half but were stopped each time by UConn goalkeeper Sarah Mansfield.

The Huskies broke through first in the 24th minute when leading scorer Chloe Hunnable put back a rebound off of a penalty corner shot.  UConn converted again on a penalty corner less than five minutes later as Hunnable provided the assist on a tip-in goal by Mckenzie Townsend for a 2-0 advantage heading into the intermission.

Shots and penalty corners were even at the break with both teams totaling four in each category in the first 35 minutes.

Duke opened the second half with a pair of penalty corner opportunities but all three shots were blocked by the Huskies’ defense. Redshirt goalkeeper Lauren Blazing came up with several diving saves at the other end to preserve the two-goal game.

With time running off the clock, the Blue Devils worked to push the ball forward into the scoring circle, but had another set piece on a corner broken up by the UConn defense. Duke’s defensive corner personnel remained stalwart against two shots by the Huskies around the 10-minute mark, and the squad generated two more penalty corner opportunities of its own inside the final four minutes but was unable to get past Mansfield in goal.

“We have to execute in our corner situations against a team like Connecticut,” Bustin said. “It was very difficult to generate a lot of attack when they have a goalkeeper in Sarah Mansfield who is fantastic. They also put a lot of numbers in front of the ball when we’re trying to attack and it makes it difficult. We didn’t execute on our opportunities.”

Shots were even at the conclusion of the contest with both teams tallying 10 each, while the Blue Devils led in penalty corners, 10-6.

Blazing finished with three saves against five shots on goal and UConn’s Mansfield made five stops.

The Huskies captured their third NCAA title and first since 1985.

Senior forward Emmie Le Marchand, who accounted for five goals and 14 points during Duke’s NCAA Tournament run, was joined on the 2013 NCAA Division I All-Tournament team by Heimbach and sophomore defender Hannah Barreca.

Sunday’s championship match represented the final contest for Duke’s eight-member senior class, including Ashley Camano, Grace Christus, Devon Gagliardi, Heimbach, Le Marchand, Rescigno, McKay Ross and graduate student Cherry Seaborn. The group guided the Blue Devils to an NCAA quarterfinals appearance in 2011 and the 2013 title match.

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- Le Marchand concludes her career fifth all-time in program history with 139 points and seventh in career goals with 55. She topped the 100-point mark for her career this fall.

- Bustin earned the 200th victory of her coaching career in Friday’s NCAA semifinals.