CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — With 22:11 to play in the second half, Virginia erased a three-goal Duke lead, but the Blue Devils used a 5-2 run to secure an 11-8 road victory against the Cavaliers on Saturday at Klockner Stadium.
Duke has now won six consecutive games, including five against ranked opponents, to move to 9-1 (2-1 ACC) on the year, while Virginia falls to 5-4 (0-3 ACC). Duke junior Kat Thomas led all players with four goals; junior Kim Wenger and senior Christie Kaestner both chipped in two goals and an assist to pace the Blue Devil offense.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “We did a great job battling for 60 minutes today. Any time you’re on the road in the ACC and win the game, that’s great. There were parts of our game that we didn’t execute as well today, but given that, we’re still excited to walk out of here with a win and get back to work on Monday.”
Virginia looked to limit Duke’s possessions by slowing down the pace of play, but the Blue Devils jumped out to a 3-0 advantage to start the game. Senior Virginia Crotty kicked things off for Duke, registering the first two goals of the game before Thomas made it 3-0 with 21:13 to play in the opening period.
“We anticipated that they would try and play a little slower,” added Kimel. “We had some different defenses that we were able to utilize and disrupt their flow and make them do things they didn’t want to do. But [the pace of the game] disrupted our ability to substitute because there were long periods where we didn’t have the ball.”
The Cavaliers got on the board seven minutes later to bring the score to 3-1 and looked to cut the Devil lead to one on a free position shot two minutes later, but Duke goaltender Mollie Mackler, who finished the day with five stops, came up with the save.
Goals from Thomas and Kaestner pushed the Duke lead to 5-1, but UVa answered with back-to-back goals in 40 seconds. With 6:06 to go, freshman Molly Quirke found Wenger for the score and the Blue Devils headed into halftime with a 6-3 advantage.
However, the opening eight minutes of the second half saw Duke’s three-goal lead evaporate. Virginia got two scores from Josie Owen and a goal from Julie Gardner. Despite the shift in momentum, after a timeout, the Blue Devils answered a minute later to take a 7-6 lead on Thomas’ third goal of the game.
“[The timeout] was an opportunity to regain our composure and refocus on our game plan,” said Kimel. “A lot of emphasis for us in the second half was winning the draw. We felt that if we had the ball, we would be successful in generating our offense, but we needed to win the draw. After that timeout, the kids responded really well.”
Five minutes later, freshman Taylor Virden found the back of the cage for her fourth goal this season and Duke capped a 3-0 run 38 seconds later. Mackler made a key save, then the Duke goalie connected with Thomas at midfield, igniting a fast break that ended with a wide-open Kaestner goal.
Virginia cut into the Duke lead with 12:46 to play, but Duke was able to keep the clock moving and answered with 6:37 left on another Thomas score, her team-leading 28th of the year. Wenger gave Duke a four-goal margin less than a minute later and Virginia could only notch one goal over the last five minutes.
For the game, Duke led in shots, 24-17, and draw controls, 11-10, as the Blue Devils committed a season-low nine turnovers in the contest.
Virginia was led by Owens with three goals and Charlie Finnigan with two goals and two assists.