Following a promising start to the season with three wins in its first five games, there was growing optimism early in the season surrounding the Virginia field hockey team. However, the trajectory of the season has gone south for the Cavaliers in recent weeks after being swept in double-headers against North Carolina and Louisville, despite coming within a razor’s edge of victory and losing by just one goal in two of the games. Virginia’s struggles on the offensive end persisted this weekend when the Cavaliers (3-6, 2-3 ACC) faced Duke Saturday in Durham, N.C.
The Cavaliers found themselves in a compromising position early, giving up a penalty corner to the Blue Devils just over two minutes into the game(2-6, 1-4 ACC). Duke capitalized on the opportunity with a goal by freshman midfielder Darcy Bourne. Senior midfielder Lily Posternak and senior defender Lexi Davidson received credit for the assist.
Junior midfielder Annie McDonough looked to equalize for Virginia just minutes later, but had both of her attempts thwarted, with the latter shot saved by freshman goalie Piper Hampsch. A trio of penalty corners for Posternak around the six-minute mark opened the door for Duke to expand their lead, but the Cavalier defense remained stout.
With the rest of the period remaining uneventful, the teams moved into the second period with Virginia trailing the Blue Devils 1-0. The Cavaliers made a number of substitutions early in an attempt to spark their offense.
The team had a window of opportunity at the halfway point of the period as freshman striker Lilly Hengerer attempted a penalty corner. After the first shot by sophomore back Cato Geusgens was blocked, Hengerer attempted another corner, which also resulted in another blocked shot.
On the third and final corner from the possession, the Cavaliers had their best opportunity to tie the game, but Hampsch saved a shot by senior back Rachel Robinson.
As Virginia failed to capitalize, Duke found a window to extend its lead as the first half wound down. A penalty corner by sophomore forward Hannah Miller opened the door for a goal by graduate midfielder and defender Eva Nunnink.
Coming into the third period trailing 2-0, the sense of urgency for the Cavaliers increased. Although both teams looked to score, the period was fought in the midfield as the game intensified.
Between both teams, only one shot was taken the entire period. The lone shot came from junior back Amber Ezechiels at the 35-minute mark and sailed wide of the goal.
Still down 2-0, the teams found themselves in a difficult spot in the fourth period. A shot by Miller for the Blue Devils was blocked by the Virginia defense and opened up a scoring opportunity on the other end.
Freshman midfielder Anneloes Knol took the penalty corner for the Cavaliers, setting up Ezechiels with a shot. Despite her efforts, the shot was blocked by the Duke defense.
With little time remaining, Virginia desperately looked to score late, but the opportunities were few and far between. Perhaps the Cavaliers’ best chance to score in the game came at 58:28 with a shot by Robinson that knocked off the crossbar and sailed out.
The matchup concluded in 2-0 Blue Devil victory as they dealt Virginia their fifth straight loss. Overall, both teams took a total of 11 shots throughout the game with Bourne leading both teams in shots taken with four.
“This was a hard fought game,” Coach Michele Madison said. “We got down early and fought back hard. We were playing some great hockey, but nothing on the board to show for it. All we can do is just keep shooting and get that ball in the back of the net.”
The Cavaliers will look to bounce back Thursday in the ACC Championship Quarterfinals against Wake Forest, a team that Virginia has both beaten and lost to this season.