Spartans Fall to No. 4 Duke in Season Opener on Late OT Goal

Sierra Patton made seven saves, but it was not enough as No. 16 Michigan State fell to No. 4 Duke 2-1 in overtime in the season opener Friday afternoon at Ralph Young Field.

Heading into overtime, Michigan State had momentum thanks to Abby Barker’s goal with 7.6 seconds remaining in regulation, but the seesaw affair continued.

Duke outshot the Spartans 8-1 in the overtime period before Alexa Mackintire put the game away. Mackintire got the ball just inside the top of the striking circle and deked around a sprawling Patton and backhanded the ball into the vacant cage with 1.3 seconds left on the clock.

“I think as a team we really put a lot of heart into the game,” said Patton, a redshirt sophomore from Chelsea, Mich. “It was really disappointing to lose that in overtime in the last second.”

“I think Sierra had an outstanding game for her first start in the green and white. She executed well today. She was solid for us,” said MSU head coach Helen Knull, now in her fourth season as head coach. “I think it gives her confidence, it gives the team confidence, and I’m excited for her and how she played today.”

The Spartans, who are now 3-7 all-time against the Blue Devils, got off to a slow start, only registering one shot in the first 10 minutes of play, but found their legs in the middle of the half, as the pace quickened and play went back and forth.

Michigan State had a flurry of shots off of consecutive corners near the midway point of the first half, but could not find a way to solve Duke goaltender Lauren Blazing. Moments later, the Blue Devils got on the board courtesy of senior Ainsley Gill at 21:02. Gill redirected a shot by Abby Beltrani and the ball found its way past Patton.

The second half started in a similar fashion for the Spartans, who spent a good part of the first 15 minutes without the ball. Once Michigan State gained some offensive momentum and started peppering the Duke netminder, the tide turned.

Then Barker took control of the game. She had three shots in the second half culminating in her heroics late in the game as she fired a shot shortside that got behind Blazing to tie the game.

“I just got the ball on my reverse stick off of a tackle and I just wound up and swung,” Barker, a senior from Columbus, Ohio said. “We are always going to fight until the last second.”

Despite the loss, Barker was pleased with the game.

“I’m excited about it because I don’t think we played our best game and it just shows that we have so much potential going into the season,” she said. “I think we had moments of greatness. That’s why I’m still positive about it. It just shows that we’re contenders. Whatever team we are going to play, we are going to come out as hard as we can, give all we got, and never give up.”

As for Knull, there are things to work on.

“I felt we gave Duke too many opportunities, and you can’t give a team like that the corners we did in succession and at times we were a bit sloppy. Sometimes I think we gave them the game versus being outplayed,” Knull said. “It’s important for us to let go of today, regroup as a team and come up with a game plan for Sunday and execute.”

The Spartans are back in action Sunday morning, as they host Maine at 11 a.m.

Brian Bobal is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.

Photo: David Defever/Impact Sports