LOUISVILLE, Ky. – In a meeting of unbeaten ACC squads, second-ranked Duke emerged with a 2-1 victory over No. 6 Louisville Friday evening at the Cardinals’ Trager Stadium. The Blue Devils moved to 7-0 on the season to secure the best start in program history.
Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Sammi Steele totaled six saves and senior midfielder Hunter Bracale provided the game-winner in the 63rd minute as head coach Pam Bustin’s squad notched its fifth victory over a top-20 opponent.
“To have come this far against such great opponents means a lot,” Bustin said. “We just have to keep learning from it. I wouldn’t say that was our best game tonight. It really wasn’t. But we were able, from our past experiences, to really dig in and keep our heads cool and come out when we had the opportunity to keep fighting. Our defense did a great job holding out a great Louisville attack, and our attack just kept taking their chances and going at it and didn’t panic. They just stayed in it until the opportunity came.”
The Blue Devils got off to a fast start, scoring on a penalty corner for the 11th time on the season just seven minutes in. Junior back Alyssa Chillano extended her point-scoring streak to four consecutive contests with the goal and Ashley Kristen and NCAA assists leader Margaux Paolino both picked up points with their contributions on the play.
“We came out and played really well,” Bustin said. “We’d been putting on some great pressure early in the game and I think it was important to have that opportunity to execute the corner.”
Both teams drew corner opportunities over the next 10 minutes, with Louisville goalkeeper Ayeisha McFerran and Duke’s Steele making stops to keep the score at 1-0. Steele turned away additional shots on two Louisville penalty corners toward the end of the period, and the Blue Devils would take the one-goal advantage into the intermission.
Duke maintained its strong defensive play in the second period until the Cardinals’ Taylor Stone scored on a penalty corner in the 52nd minute. Both sides continued to generate opportunities off corners, but it was the Blue Devils who would break through next on a chaotic sequence inside the circle. After a Haley Schleicher shot was denied on a defensive save, Bracale delivered her first goal of the season, tapping in the rebound at the far post.
Bracale’s tally put Duke back in front with just under eight minutes remaining.
Louisville pulled McFerran from the cage inside the final two minutes, but the Blue Devils remained solid through the end of regulation to earn their second conference victory.
“Sammi was just solid,” Bustin said. “She was real steady, real solid, just did her job and kept us in and gave us the opportunity to win the game. That’s all you can ask for from your goalkeeper.”
Duke finished with eight shots and four penalty corners while the Cardinals tallied nine shots and six corners.
The seven-game win streak is the best for the Duke program since the 2008 squad won eight consecutive contests en route to a 15-6 finish.