DURHAM, N.C. – It was a high-scoring start to the season for the third-ranked Blue Devils, who dispatched ninth-ranked Penn State by a 4-1 score in Friday night’s opener at Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium.
Sophomore Olivia Sahaydak got Duke on the board following an initial goal by the Nittany Lions in the game’s opening minutes, and would tack on another tally in the final quarter. Freshman Hannah Miller impressed in her Duke debut, putting away what would prove to be the game winner, and sophomore Leah Crouse put a stamp on the season-opening win with a backhand shot into the net inside the final three minutes.
“I liked the resilience that the team showed,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “Penn State is a super dangerous team and they play with a lot of energy and a lot of strength. At times, that kind of got the best of us. But we kept working and trying to figure it out and get back into our rhythm and our game.”
Penn State’s Alex Horst broke open the contest at the 5:08 mark, but the Blue Devils responded by outshooting the visiting Nittany Lions, 6-0, in the second quarter. Sahaydak provided the equalizer on a rebound opportunity in the 25th minute, picking up where she left off in a freshman campaign that saw her rank among the team’s leaders with 10 goals.
Miller put the Blue Devils ahead less than two minutes later, capitalizing on a quick drive up the field. Crouse sent a ball from left to right for Miller, who finished the scoring play for her first collegiate goal.
Duke continued to attack the cage in the third quarter and redshirt senior goalkeeper Sammi Steele notched her two saves on the evening within a two-minute sequence, preserving the 2-1 advantage. The Blue Devils’ defensive unit also held strong against a pair of Penn State penalty corner attempts to close the quarter.
Sahaydak unleashed a backhand strike with seven minutes remaining for the third multiple-goal game of her career. Crouse then followed suit, rocketing a backhand into the far corner of the cage to round out the top-10 victory.
Duke led in shots, 17-9, for the evening, placing 11 of the looks on cage. Penalty corners were even in the contest with each team recording three apiece.
“There were some things that were just absolutely beautiful from the Duke team tonight,” Bustin said. “And there were some things that were not. That’s the first game of the season. Those are the exciting things for us to go back and work on and try to re-evaluate at practice and re-evaluate in our next match. We’re just getting started.”
Penn State goalkeeper Brie Barraco totaled seven saves in the loss.
The opening weekend of action takes the Blue Devils to Williamsburg, Va., Sunday for a matchup against a second ranked opponent in No. 25 William & Mary. The contest will begin at 1 p.m., with live stats available here.