Sept. 3, 2023.
That’s the last time Duke field hockey lost a contest, a 2-3 defeat against then-No. 2 Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Cup. Since that date, the Blue Devils have risen to second in the rankings behind an 11-game win streak in a remarkable turnaround from 2022. However, whenever a team reaches the pinnacle, the only way to go is down.
No. 2 Duke lost to No. 8 Virginia Sunday in a heartbreaking 2-1 double-overtime defeat after mounting a comeback late in the third quarter. Sophomore Alaina McVeigh had the lone goal for the Blue Devils, while Taryn Tkachuk and Dani Mendez-Trendler each earned a tally for the Cavaliers. The loss is the program’s first overtime defeat of the year and the only game it has conceded on home soil.
“We knew it was gonna be a great [match],” said head coach Pam Bustin. “It was such a high level of competition to try some different things and see what works.”
Virginia dealt the deafening blow mere minutes into the second overtime period. While attempting to defend a charging player, the ball hit off the foot of Duke midfielder Paige Bitting to give the Cavaliers a penalty corner. Mendez-Trendler inserted to find back Jans Croon at the top of the circle, but the shot was blocked easily by the Blue Devil defense. However, the home team was not quite in the clear.
Mendez-Trendler retrieved the bouncing ball and sent it in toward midfielder Adele Iacobucci, who tried to deflect the cross toward goal. Duke goalie Piper Hampsch came out to make the initial save, but the defense did not follow up on the stop. Ever the thorn in the Blue Devils’ side, Mendez-Trendler gained possession once more near the endline before executing a flawless reverse flick that snuck past the near post to nab the 2-1 victory.
“I think it was just a lapse in our attack,” said Bustin. “We had definite opportunities in overtime to win the game…so it’s just disappointing.”
It was Duke (13-2, 5-0 in the ACC), however, that had the momentum in the waning minutes of regulation. Heading into the third quarter down 0-1, the Blue Devils came out of the locker room with unbridled energy. Graduate student Hannah Miller nearly netted the equalizer halfway through the period after spinning away from a defender before launching a reverse hit that was blocked by Virginia (9-5, 2-3) goalie Tyler Kennedy. Senior captain Barb Civitella tried to convert the rebound, but the Cavalier between the pipes came up huge once more.
It was McVeigh that ultimately found the tying tally. After a Virginia player tripped up junior Grace Norair, Duke was awarded a penalty corner. Miller inserted the ball, where it found the stick of the Landsdale, Pa., native. McVeigh skillfully dribbled through three defenders before hitting it past Kennedy’s right side. Drawing her team even at 1-1, No. 14 in white notched her 14th goal of the season.
“She’s a goal scorer…and she was prepared to finish the play,” said Bustin. “I’m really proud of her and grateful for that.”
The defeat after the double overtime extravaganza was certainly disappointing for Bustin’s squad, but the game got off on the wrong foot from the get-go. At the start of the first quarter, Mendez-Trendler began her problem-causing streak as she dribbled to the right baseline. Despite several charging Blue Devil defenders, she snuck the ball in to Virginia striker Tkachuk, who deftly struck the shot over the left shoulder of Hampsch to give her team the early 1-0 lead.
“Virginia came out with tons of energy,” said Bustin. “They just took advantage of a little miscommunication defensively on our part and executed the goal attempt in the circle.”
Despite the loss, Duke can still achieve a perfect record in the ACC given that the contest against the Cavaliers was considered a nonconference game. Therefore, the squad must shake off the loss and set their sights on the remaining challenges before it — including a regular-season showdown against powerhouse No. 3 North Carolina.
“They say you don’t lose, you learn,” said Bustin. “[We need to think about] where we are missing opportunities and what we can do in regulation to win the game.”
Before facing off against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill, the Blue Devils will welcome UConn to Durham Sunday in their final regular-season home game.
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| Blue Zone editor
Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle’s 119th volume.