fieldhockey-d1 flag | September 8, 2018

College field hockey: Princeton's MaryKate Neff scores game-winning goal to help No. 6 Princeton defeat No. 4 Duke 3-2

Princeton field hockey

When you beat the No. 4 and No. 5 field hockey teams in the country in the same week in early November, the prize is a trip to the NCAA Final Four.

When you do it in early September, the stakes aren't quite as high, though it still feels really good.

MORE: No. 4 Maryland off to best start since 2013 after holding off No. 3 Duke 4-3

MaryKate Neff's acrobatic goal with 16:38 left was the game-winner as No. 6 Princeton defeated No. 4 Duke 3-2 in a dramatic home opener on Bedford Field Friday afternoon. The Tigers trailed 1-0 at halftime and 2-1 in the second half before rallying for the win.

The victory came three days after Princeton beat No. 5 Penn State 2-1 in double overtime in State College. The wins didn't have the impact they would have in the NCAA tournament, but they did make a resounding statement on the national scene for the Tigers.

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Princeton and Duke have now combined to play nine games this season, and all nine have been against ranked opponents. Princeton is now 3-1 on the season, with the only loss a 1-0 defeat in the opener against No. 2 North Carolina.

On a day when the teams were so evenly matched that they both had nine shots and four penalty corners, the difference was Neff's goal, which came after Duke goalie Sammi Steele made a tough save on a Sophia Tornetta drive off one of those corners. The rebound came in front to Neff, who tapped it up in the air and then swatted it in, making it 3-2.

The Tiger lead stood up for the final 16:38, which brought the total amount of time that Princeton had the lead to 16:56.

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Duke scored the only goal of the first half on a rip from Margaux Paolino, and Princeton would tie it when Carlotta von Gierke sent a long pass down the middle to Clara Roth, who faked right and then tucked a shot just inside the far post.

That goal came with two minutes gone in the second half, and that lead would last for exactly 18 seconds before the Blue Devils went up 2-1. Princeton tied it again when Maddie Bacskai blasted one into the back of the cage of a corner. Neff's winner came two minutes later.

Princeton is back at it Sunday at Rutgers at 11 am before returning home next weekend to host Monmouth Friday the 14th and then Delaware Sunday the 16th.