No. 5 Duke shocks No. 1 Terps to advance to NCAA title game
Duke didn’t win the national field hockey title Friday. It only looked that way after the final horn signaled the fifth-ranked Blue Devils’ stunning 3-2 decision over No. 1 Maryland in the Division I NCAA semifinals at Old Dominion University’s L.R. Hill Complex.
The Blue Devils staggered the Terrapins by scoring three of the first four goals, then nursed a one-goal lead throughout the final 35 minutes as goalkeeper and Durham Academy grad Lauren Blazing stood tall against a furious Maryland assault. The Terrapins outshot Duke 11-2 in the second half but couldn’t get anything past the acrobatic Blazing,
When it was over, the Blue Devils raced to the middle of the field and began wrapping each other in celebratory bear hugs.
“Complete happiness,” Duke forward Heather Morris said. “I felt like I was on top of the world with all my best friends.”
The victory vaulted Duke (17-6) into Sunday’s 4 p.m. national title game, the third in program history, where the Blue Devils will be in search of their first national title against Connecticut (20-4), which downed North Carolina in Friday's semifinal doubleheader nightcap.
The Terrapins (22-2) came in on a seven-game winning streak, a stretch that included two victories over Duke since Nov. 2. But Morris gave an early indication this one might turn out differently less than three minutes into the contest when she re-directed a cross into the Maryland cage.
Hayley Turner responded with a goal for Maryland before Paula Heimbach restored Duke’s advantage at the 17:59 mark. About 10 minutes later, Emmie Le Marchand buried her own rebound to boost Duke’s lead to 3-1. Less than a minute later, Anna Dessoye cut Maryland’s deficit to one at halftime.
The Blue Devils then braced for the anticipated Maryland onslaught.
“When it gets to high-pressure games like this, the team that’s down is always going to come out strong,” Le Marchand said. “But we knew what was coming, and we were well-prepared to deal with that pressure.”
Blazing certainly was. The sophomore turned aside 12 Maryland shots, eight in the second half.
“You play the game for that kind of pressure, so it’s actually kind of fun,’’ Blazing said. “You know they’re going to bring a fight, but that’s what you’re playing for.”
According to Le Marchand, it’s also what made the victory celebration so sweet.
“How can you not be that elated when reach a national championship final, something you’ve been working for one year, three years, four?” she said. “So yeah, it showed.”