DURHAM, N.C. - Junior defender Paula Heimbach scored her first career goal to lift the 24th-ranked Blue Devils over the California Golden Bears, 2-1, in overtime on Friday at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. The California squad earned more penalty corners by a margin of 13-6 but the staunch Duke defense kept the Blue Devils in the game, and eventually carried Duke to a win.
"I think it was a tough game for us, head coach Pam Bustin commented. "We are still coming out of a few tough losses that we have been learning from and making changes at practice. I am really proud that we stayed with it and we didn't get lost in some of the chaos that was created tonight. We really tried to stay on our game plan to really execute the things that we have been working on for the last two weeks. As far as toughness, mentally and physically, I am really proud of how we played tonight."
The opening 20 minutes of the game were filled with back and forth battles that included two near goals for California. The first was a low shot from Golden Bear Nicole Wallstedt that beat sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing but careened off the post and was cleared quickly by the Duke defense. Then, California had a goal called back because the ball was shot outside of the scoring circle.
California earned a string of penalty corners and finally found the back of the net 25 minutes into game action off a shot from sophomore Caroline Struijk. Struijk took the shot from the top of the arc and was assisted by Kendra Bills and Shannon Elmitt.
The Blue Devils responded with a goal of their own from junior Emmie Le Marchand. The Worcester, England native earned the score in the 32nd minute off of Duke's third penalty corner and was assisted by stopper junior Grace Christus and senior inserter Abby Hassinger.
California came out as the aggressor in the second half, firing eight shots and earning five penalty corners, however Duke was able to fend off the attack and gain the momentum towards the end of the second half, keeping the Golden Bears out of the cage and forcing overtime.
"I think our momentum started about two thirds of the way through the second half, it forced them to call that timeout. When they called that timeout, it helped us identify that we had them and that energy just spread. From that point on whether we scored in regulation or whether we had to score in overtime, I thought we had the game in our favor."
In overtime, the game was fast paced as both sides were limited to seven a side. After trading opportunities, Duke earned a penalty corner in the 79th minute of the game. Junior Jessica Buttinger inserted the corner to senior Mary Nielsen who was able to fire a shot towards the right corner of the net, but California goalkeeper Courtney Hendrickson was able to save the shot. After the outstanding save, the rebound bounced right to Heimbach who buried a shot, lifting the Blue Devils to the win.
"The way she hit that, she swept it wonderfully, and it was right on point. She was wide open and did the right thing and hit it back post."
Heimbach, a native of Palm, Pa., has played in every game this season as a defender for the Blue Devils and has taken four shots in 2012. She has started 35 of the last 37 games for Duke dating back to last season.
Sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing ended the game with eight saves, including a number of outstanding efforts in the waning minutes of the game.
The Blue Devils close out the regular season against Virginia Saturday, October 27, at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. Game time is set for 1 p.m. Prior to the start of the game, Duke's three seniors: Chelsea Amsley, Abby Hassinger and Mary Nielsen will be honored.