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Field hockey outlasts Duke to reach ACC Tournament semifinals

The No. 4 Cavaliers withstood a late comeback from No. 5 Duke to win 2-1

<p>Solid defense has been key to the Cavaliers' eight game winning streak.</p>

Solid defense has been key to the Cavaliers' eight game winning streak.

The Virginia field hockey team beat Duke 2-1 in a thrilling ACC Quarterfinals matchup Thursday night. The Cavaliers (16-3, 4-2 ACC) did not play their cleanest game of the season against a tough Blue Devils (13-7, 1-5 ACC) team, but capitalized off of enough mistakes to pull out a 2-1 victory. The victory keeps their ACC title hopes alive.

In the early going, both teams looked evenly matched. In the first quarter, Duke had three shots, and Virginia registered two. The difference came when junior midfielder Rachel Robinson capitalized off a penalty corner opportunity. Her fourth goal of the season came at the ideal moment to put the Cavaliers in front 1-0.

Despite conceding an early goal to Virginia, Duke’s defense locked the Cavaliers up for the most part, especially in the second quarter, in which the Blue Devils allowed zero shots. Duke had two opportunities of its own, but the Cavalier defense held strong. 

Duke’s attack looked potent coming out of halftime. The Blue Devils had nine shots in the third quarter alone, compared to just two by Virginia. However, just like they have all year long, the Cavaliers made the clutch play when they needed to. Virginia capitalized on a goal by freshman back Cato Geusgens — her eighth of the year — off of assists by sophomore midfielder Annie McDonough and senior back Anzel Viljoen.

Holding a two-goal lead with under five minutes left in the third quarter, the Cavaliers finally caved, allowing the Blue Devils some hope for a comeback. Duke senior midfielder Haley Schleicher scored off of a corner play to cut the lead to one, setting up a crucial fourth quarter.

Playing with a 2-1 lead, the Cavaliers shifted their focus to their defense in the fourth quarter. As a result, Virginia did not register a single shot in the quarter. Despite the Cavaliers’ tough defense, Duke remained aggressive on offense. The Blue Devils registered six shots in the fourth, but Virginia’s defense maintained its line and held on to preserve the victory.

The victory is the Cavaliers’ eighth straight win and the second time Virginia has beat the Blue Devils this season, the first coming in a 3-2 overtime thriller Oct. 18. Virginia now will look to continue its run in the ACC Tournament.

However, the road to a title will not be easy. Up next for the Cavaliers is No. 9 Boston College in the ACC Semifinals. The game starts at 3:30 p.m. Friday in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and will be broadcasted on ACC Network.