The Blue Devils might have welcomed the Huskies this weekend, but the real dog on the field was Charlie van Oirschot.
Van Oirschot, along with six other graduate students and seniors were honored Sunday in Duke’s final home game of the regular season, a 2-0 victory for the third-ranked Blue Devils against UConn. While much of the game was centered around possession rather than scoring opportunities — of which sophomore Alaina McVeigh converted two — the competitiveness of Duke shone through, exemplified wholly by van Oirschot
“Her competitiveness is outrageous, her will to win … if something doesn’t work out she’s a dog, she’ll get in there and she’ll fight until something ends” said head coach Pam Bustin on van Oirschot’s performance throughout her career at Duke.
Such a competitive spirit was embodied by the lead-up to the Blue Devils’ second goal at the end of the third period. Van Oirschot swifty dribbled her way up the edge of the pitch, but lost possession in a battle against a pesky Husky defender. Instead of giving up on the play, the Haarlem, Netherlands, native hunted for the ball, regaining possession and setting up a shot for teammate Grace Norair. While Norair barely missed the outside of the net, McVeigh got in on the action, scoring her second goal of the game off a corner.
While Duke’s dominant defensive and offensive presence was felt throughout the entirety of the game, the team didn’t get off to the start it would have liked. Following an emotional 2-1 double-overtime loss against then-No. 8 Virginia, the Blue Devils (14-2, 5-0 in the ACC) needed to find a way to bounce-back in their final opportunity to secure a win on home turf. The momentum began to shift when McVeigh tallied her first goal of the game, coming off a penalty stroke at 11:22 in the first period. Despite the nifty shot, the team wasn’t satisfied with their production yet.
“We talked during halftime that we weren’t playing our best game and with having the 2003, 2013 alums here we wanted to really make it special for everyone” van Oirschot said.
It’s true, family and friends weren’t the only people at Jack Katz Stadium celebrating the seniors. The 2003 and 2013 field hockey NCAA Final Four teams were also honored at the game. The 2013 alumni saw a familiar threat in the blue and red uniforms of the Huskies (5-12), as it was UConn that defeated Duke in the 2013 NCAA championship. In fact, Sunday’s meeting was the first time the two teams have faced-off since that heartbreaking loss. With such an iconic group present in the stands, it was only reasonable van Oirschot and teammates sought their revenge — and they got it.
With a slow start concentrated in exchanges of possession, the Blue Devils became more composed over the ball as the game progressed. Rather than forcing the ball forward, the team opted to play from the back, completing seamless passes at the back line and switching the field to find gaps in UConn’s defense. Finding ways to get up the field required some adaptation on Duke’s part. Any time an offensive opportunity presented itself, multiple Huskies immediately swarmed the Blue Devil.
While Duke recorded its usual 13 shots on goal, offensive production was a little lacking at times. McVeigh and teammate Hannah Miller had plenty of breakaways, constantly outsmarting defensemen and dribbling through numerous players at a time. When they got to the final offensive third, it proved difficult to get the final tap-in to find the back of the net.
Regardless, two goals perfectly suffices when one has a disciplined defense and Piper Hampsch in net. Whenever UConn made a forward pass, there was an eager Blue Devil on the other side, ready to intercept the play and start an offensive charge. Senior goalie Hampsch celebrated her fifth shutout of the season, and now sits seventh in all-time minutes recorded by a Duke goalie.
In following the theme of seniors, it’s evident that Duke is saying goodbye to a special group of players. While the seniors haven’t always shared seasons as successful as the current, Bustin conveyed that it was a mentality shift that altered the direction of the program.
“It all started really over a year ago with their leadership and their desire to compete at a high level and their love for this program,” Bustin said. “For them to bring their leadership and their experiences with us to lead this team has been really really important and it carries into their play”.
The Blue Devils will face their toughest match of the season in Chapel Hill this Friday, taking on the second-ranked Tar Heels. Ahead of the game, Bustin believes it is the fight and grit in their play as well as a full 60-minute performance that could lead the team to a huge road victory and keep it unbeaten in ACC play.
“We have an amazing team culture, and I think it really paid off this year by being honest, working hard for and with each other,” van Oirschot said. “And it’s just amazing to do it with your built-in best friends.”
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