DURHAM, N.C. – The fourth-seeded Duke field hockey team opened NCAA Championship action with a 1-0 shutout of Miami University Friday at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. Behind a goal from freshman Olivia Sahaydak, the Blue Devils advanced to Sunday’s second round, where they will face a familiar foe out of the ACC in Wake Forest.
“We worked really hard for that win,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “Couldn’t be more proud. Talk about it being a new Friday for us. There were moments we were under stress, under pressure for sure. The whole game, it was a game that they had to stay mentally sharp in and continue to just play and believe and find solutions … It was a battle that the team stuck together through today.”
Sahaydak found the back of the cage 22 minutes in on what would prove to be the game winner. Her 10th goal of the season came on a backhand from the edge of the circle that the rookie from Bethlehem, Pa., sent flying past the RedHawks’ goalkeeper.
“I definitely was excited to get out there and see what we could do as a team,” Sahaydak said of her first career NCAA Championship contest. “We’ve been working a lot as a team, connecting passes and working together to be able to get the ball from the back up to the front.”
Heavy rain moved into the area later in the half, making conditions difficult, but the Blue Devils maintained the 1-0 advantage at the intermission behind 15 first-half shots.
Duke’s front line continued to attack the circle in the second half, but a strong effort by Miami’s Maddie Passarella in goal prevented another tally. Passarella would go on to finish the afternoon with 12 saves.
An equally solid defensive performance on the Blue Devils’ part held the RedHawks without a single shot over the final 35 minutes. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Sammi Steele notched one save while guiding Duke to its eighth shutout of the season.
The Blue Devils outshot Miami on the day, 26-5, and drew eight penalty corner opportunities to two by the visitors.
“They’re a dangerous team and they’re a very good team,” Bustin said of the RedHawks, whom Duke faced in the first round for the second straight year. “We knew last year that they were dangerous and good and they had another whole year to improve and get better. The core of seniors they have and the players around them are just fantastic. I give them a lot of credit and congratulate them on a great year.”
Bustin’s squad improved to 16-5 overall in 24-16 all-time in the NCAA Championship. The Blue Devils advanced to the tournament quarterfinals for the sixth consecutive season and moved to 9-2 in NCAA contests played on their home turf.
“For this group to earn the right to play at home through the season that they had in 2018 is awesome,” Bustin said. “We’re going to have another battle on Sunday. The teams in this tournament are fantastic. We’re going to just rest and organize and come back for a new day on Sunday.”
Wake Forest (12-9) reached the second round with a 3-2 victory over Iowa Friday afternoon in Durham.
Sunday’s quarterfinal contest is slated for 1 p.m. at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. Live video will be available on the Blue Devils’ Facebook page.