Behind a career high 18 saves from Ayeisha McFerran, the No. 10-ranked University of Louisville field hockey team earned a thrilling 3-2 shootout victory over the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils in the ACC Tournament semifinals at Trager Stadium on Friday afternoon. With the win, the third-seeded Cardinals (14-6) earn their first trip to the ACC championship game in program history.
“It’s unbelievable,” said UofL head coach Justine Sowry. “Duke, what an outstanding team they are. They were all over us. I really have two words to say: Ayeisha McFerran. She was phenomenal today throughout the course of the game. If we were to hang on in overtime and gone into shootout, I had all the confidence with both our tech unit and Ayeisha. Wow, just a phenomenal game by our team.”
Second-seeded Duke (16-3) controlled the pace early, firing off four shots in the opening minutes of the game. However, the Cardinals were able to keep the Blue Devils off the board with four crucial saves from McFerran.
The stifling Louisville defense kept the Blue Devils at bay through the next 20 minutes as both teams remained scoreless with less than three minutes left in the half.
In the 32nd minute, the Cardinals gained momentum from back-to-back penalty corners. After a block and two saves from Duke goalkeeper Sammi Steele, freshman Marisa Martin Pelegrina found the rebound and launched a shot into the cage to give the Cardinals a 1-0 edge over the Blue Devils.
Down by one in the final minutes of the half, the Blue Devils stormed down the field looking for the equalizer. Rose Tynan delivered a shot as the seconds ticked off the clock, but McFerran made a swatted the ball away at the buzzer to maintain the Cardinals’ 1-0 lead heading into the break.
At halftime, the Blue Devils held a 10-4 edge in shots and a 3-2 advantage in corners. McFerran finished the half with a season-high eight saves, while Duke’s Steele recorded two stops through the first 35 minutes.
Duke opened the second half on the attack, but McFerran picked up right where she left off, recording her ninth save of the game at the 35:09 mark to maintain the Louisville lead.
In the 56th minute, Duke’s Alyssa Chillano connected on penalty corner assists from Ashley Kristen and Stephanie Pezzuti to score Blue Devils’ first goal of the game, tying the score at 1-1
The Cardinals countered four minutes later, when senior Marigrace Ragsdale sent a feed to sophomore Minout Mink who lifted a shot past Steel for her team-best 10th goal of the season to put Louisville on top 2-1 with less than 10 minutes remaining in regulation.
The Blue Devils lifted Steele in favor of an extra field player for the final 3:17 of the second half. The move worked in Duke’s favor when Ainsley Gill found Ashley Kristen for the 2-2 equalizer with 25 seconds left on the clock to send the game into overtime.
Looking for an ACC Championship berth, Louisville and Duke applied heavy pressure on both offense and defense in the first overtime period. McFerran continued to be instrumental for the Cardinals in goal, turning away four shots to force a second overtime period after Duke held an 8-1 advantage in shots and a 1-0 edge in corners.
The second overtime period transpired much like the first with both the Cardinals and the Blue Devils making plays on both ends on the field. In the 97th minute, Duke drew two consecutive penalty corners, but they were unable to score the game winner as McFerran stood strong with five more saves in the second overtime period to keep the score at 2-2 and send the game to a shootout to determine the winner.
Senior Nicole Woods and Martin Pelegrina, along with Duke’s Alexa Mackintire and Tynan converted in both teams’ first two attempts in the best-of-five shootout to even the score at 2-2. Next up, junior Katie Walsh’s shot found the back of the cage to put the Cardinals up 3-2 heading into Duke’s third try. McFerran stopped Ashley Kristen in the Blue Devils’ third attempt to maintain Louisville’s edge, but Steele halted Louisville junior Taylor Stone’s shot. Duke’s Chillano evened the tally at 3-3.
In the fifth and final attempt for the Cardinals, Mink fired a shot into the cage, increasing the Louisville lead to 4-3 and putting pressure on the Blue Devils to score an equalizer. With an ACC Championship berth on the line, McFerran stymied Duke’s final attempt by Hayley Schleicher to secure the 3-2 Louisville victory and send the Cardinals to the ACC Tournament Championship game for the first time in program history.
In the game, Louisville withstood Duke’s 31-8 advantage in shots and 11-2 lead in corners as the Cardinals avenged a regular season 5-0 loss to the Blue Devils when the teams met in Durham on Sept. 15.
“I was pretty happy to get the win,” said McFerran after totaling a career-best 18 saves. “It definitely wasn’t’ just me on the field today. There were 10 other players in front of me, so credit those guys. Without them, I wouldn’t have had to opportunity to make those saves.”
Louisville will return to Trager Stadium on Sunday at 1 p.m. for the ACC Tournament championship game against fifth-seeded, sixth-ranked North Carolina (15-4) who defeated top-seeded Virginia 4-0 in Friday’s other semifinal matchup.
– Louisville is now 2-0 in shootouts this season. The Cardinals also won a 3-2 decision against Wake Forest on Sept. 22.
– Louisville defeated North Carolina 3-2 in Durham, N.C. on Oct. 14 in the teams’ regular season matchup.
– Sophomore Minout Mink moves into a tie for 10th on Louisville’s list for career goals.
– Louisville improves to 9-2 at Trager Stadium this season
– The Cardinals are now 9-5 against ranked opponents
Assistant Sports Information Director
University of Louisville Athletics