Balanced attack helps send Duke to first national semifinal since 2006
DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke will return to the NCAA semifinals for the first time since 2006 after defeating Massachusetts 4-1 on Sunday in the quarterfinals of the tournament at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium.
The fourth-seeded Blue Devils (16-6) advance to the national semifinals where they will meet top-seeded Maryland (22-1) for the third time this season at 2 p.m. Friday at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Complex in Norfolk, Va.
Four different Duke players registered goals, including senior forward Emmie Le Marchand, who also tallied two assists to help the squad move on to the semifinals for the first time under third-year head coach Pam Bustin.
“This team has been really excited and geared up to play this weekend,” Bustin said. “I was impressed with our team today – with the strength from the forward line to the back line, the energy with our interchange, just the mentality of what they knew they needed to do today and then having the poise and the conviction to do it. I’m so proud of the program and the team for their steady, intelligent, hard-fought performance today.”
Le Marchand put the Blue Devils on the board in the 10th minute, notching her team-leading 16th goal of the season on a cross from sophomore Aileen Johnson. A native of Worcester, England, Le Marchand has totaled four goals in NCAA championship play after completing a hat trick in Duke’s first-round win against New Hampshire. She has also tallied a point in six consecutive games heading into the national semifinals.
Much like in Saturday’s contest against the Wildcats, Sunday’s quarterfinal match featured aggressive play in the midfield. Duke and Massachusetts combined for just five shots in the opening frame, but the Blue Devils were efficient offensively, collecting a second goal in the 23rd minute on a penalty corner strike by sophomore Hannah Barreca. Le Marchand and junior Abby Beltrani received assists on the play and Duke took a 2-0 lead into the locker room at the break.
“We’ve been a second-half team this season but both games this weekend we really came out in the first half and put it on the other team,” Duke senior Grace Christus said. “That was a huge step for us in our growth and it’s coming at the best time. I think we really just took advantage of coming out in the first minute.”
Massachusetts made it a one-goal game less than 10 minutes into the second half on a successful penalty stroke by leading scorer Brooke Sabia. The Minutewomen continued to press forward during the next few possessions, earning five penalty-corner opportunities in the final 35 minutes. However, the Blue Devil defense fended off the visiting squad and moved quickly in transition to go up by two at the 14:05 mark when junior forward Jessica Buttinger tapped in a rebound at the front post for her seventh goal of the season.
Freshman Heather Morris added a goal in the 59th minute on a penalty corner play with Le Marchand and Christus assisting to ensure the squad a spot in the national semifinals for the fifth time in program history.
For the match, the Minutewomen held an 11-9 advantage in shots and totaled five penalty corners to four by Duke. Massachusetts keeper Sam Carlino recorded two saves while redshirt sophomore Lauren Blazing had four for the Blue Devils.
The Minutewomen finish their 2013 campaign with a final record of 19-5 for their most wins since the 2000 season.
“UMass is a great team and they had a great season this year,” Bustin said. “We had to bring our best to win today.”
Following an overtime meeting two weeks ago in the semifinals of the ACC championship, Duke and Maryland will square off in the first of two semifinals Friday in Norfolk.