COLUMBUS, Ohio -– As the clock wound down in overtime of No. 15 Duke’s season opener, junior Devon Gagliardi weaved through three Buckeye defenders to provide the game-winning goal with 21 seconds left in the Blue Devils’ 3-2 victory against No. 6 Ohio State Friday afternoon at Buckeye Varsity Field.
Duke, which has now won its season opener for the third consecutive year, held a sizeable margin in both shots (30-9) and penalty corners (11-4), but remained knotted at two with Ohio State for nearly 37 minutes. Following a quick substitution, Duke pushed the ball forward to Gagliardi, who was swarmed by the recovering Ohio State defense. However, Gagliardi snuck through the Buckeye backline and was able to slip the ball past Ohio State’s goalie for win.
“[We] stayed at it from the beginning whistle to the end whistle,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “[We] stayed connected, stuck with the game plan and continued to manage the tempo of the game. [We] knew when to turn it on and when to move it around again. That was the difference today, our depth and the way we managed the tempo of the game.”
Duke wasted little time taking a 1-0 lead to start the game as sophomore Emmie Le Marchand tipped in a cross from junior Mary Nielsen in the second minute of play. The Blue Devils held the one-goal advantage for 17 minutes, but Ohio State’s Berta Queralt tied the score on an unassisted tally at the 19:42 mark.
“Ohio State is always a very dangerous attacking team,” Bustin said. “While we’re attacking and putting pressure on them, we have to maintain awareness of our defensive structure because a dangerous team can sneak up on you. I thought that’s how [Ohio State] got the first goal. After that, we did a better job to shore up our defense against the counter.”
The two teams headed into halftime with one goal each, yet Duke held the edge in shots (10-6) for the opening period. That trend would continue in both the second frame and the overtime period as the Blue Devils outshot the Buckeyes 20-3 the rest of the way.
In the 42nd minute, freshman Jessica Buttinger beat her defender down the left end line and fired her first career goal into the right side of the cage to put Duke up 2-1. But again Queralt would provide the answer for Ohio State, tying the score at 2-2 off a penalty corner with 21:38 left in the second half.
Regulation ended without another goal and Duke was able to take command of the overtime period, firing seven shots to just one from Ohio State, prior to Gagliardi’s heroics.
“All the kids were ready to go,” Bustin said. “Our depth allows us to have a little bit fresher legs when it comes time to overtime. The work that our team has done with Coach Howser and the determination this group possesses is the combination that put us in a good position to succeed in overtime.”