NORFOLK, Va. – Duke is back in the title game.
The Blue Devils (17-6) outlasted top-seeded Maryland 3-2 to advance to its first NCAA championship game since 2005. Head coach Pam Bustin's squad moves on to face the winner of the second semifinal contest between Connecticut and North Carolina at 4:45 p.m. Sunday for a chance to capture the program's first national championship.
Senior forward Emmie Le Marchand paced the attack with one goal and one assist, while redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing and a stalwart Duke defense kept the Terrapins off the board for the final 41 minutes to ensure the semifinal win.
The match opened with a flurry of offensive activity and Duke penetrated the scoring circle in the third minute to capitalize first on a feed from Le Marchand to junior Jessica Buttinger. The goal was Buttinger's eighth of the year and gave the Blue Devils an early advantage before Maryland evened up the score just minutes later on a penalty corner opportunity with Hayley Turner providing the finish.
After Blazing and the defense weathered a couple of dangerous penalty corner plays by the Terrapins, Duke earned a penalty corner of its own midway through the half. Senior Paula Heimbach redirected the hit by classmate Brenna Rescigno for her first goal of the season and second of her career.
The Blue Devils went up by two goals in the 28th minute when Le Marchand tallied her fifth goal of the tournament, putting back her own rebound past Maryland keeper Natalie Hunter. Once again the Terrapins were quick to respond, with Jill Witmer connecting on a cross inside to teammate Anna Dessoye less than a minute later. Neither side scored the rest of the way in the period, sending Duke into the locker room at the intermission with a 3-2 lead.
Shots were even at 8-8 after the first 35 minutes while Maryland led in penalty corners, 3-1.
The Terrapins came out firing in the second half, logging six shots in the first 12 minutes of the period, but Blazing and the defense remained solid against the bevy of attacking pressure. The Blue Devils went a man up at the 11:47 mark when a Maryland player was sent off with a yellow card, setting up a Duke penalty corner with just more than nine minutes to play.
Freshman Heather Morris sent a shot just wide left of the cage and the Terrapins were once again unable to get past the Duke defense on their own penalty corner a few possessions later. Blazing posted two more saves in the final three minutes to propel the squad to its first NCAA title game appearance under Bustin.
Blazing finished with 12 saves – including eight in the second half – while Maryland’s Hunter totaled four on the other end. For the match, the Terrapins led in shots 19-10 and held a 6-4 advantage in penalty corners.
Maryland concludes its season with a final record of 22-2.