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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The sixth-seeded Virginia field hockey team dropped a hard-fought loss to third-seeded and eighth-ranked Duke 3-2 Thursday in the first round of the ACC Championship at the University of Maryland. Sophomore Elly Buckley scored both goals for the Cavaliers. Virginia concludes the 2011 season with an 8-12 record.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this team and how they played,” Virginia head coach Michele Madison said. “It was almost a symbol of the entire season and the things we have struggled with; this time it didn’t bring us down, it made us stronger. They played great hockey today against a very good team but the score tells the final story.”

Duke (12-6) outshot Virginia 15-8 for the game while both teams finished with six penalty corners. Buckley led the Cavaliers, taking six of the eight shots.

The Blue Devils got on the board first in the 18th minute when Emmie Le Marchand converted on a pass from Mary Neilsen to take a 1-0 lead. But Virginia responded five minutes later on a penalty corner opportunity. Sophomore Hadley Bell injected the ball to senior Rachel Jennings, who dished it over to Buckley for her 16th goal of the season.

Duke then regained the lead just before the half when Devon Gagliardi deflected in a Rhian Jones shot on a penalty corner in the 29th minute. The Blue Devils led 2-1 at halftime.

Duke registered the first goal of the second half when McKay Ross scored in the 46th minute to take a 3-1 advantage. Again Virginia responded moments later when in the 49th minute Buckley blasted through another shot off a Jess Orrett rebound on a penalty corner to make it 3-2.

Virginia’s freshman goalkeeper Jenny Johnstone finished with four saves in the cage. Samantha Nelson had two stops for Duke.

With the win, Duke advances to the semifinals of the ACC Championship to face second-seeded and third-ranked Maryland at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Three Virginia seniors – Alex Jahnle, Adrienne Ostroff and Jennings – ended their college careers Thursday. They finished four seasons with a 60-29 career record and made two trips to the NCAA semifinals.

“The whole game was a credit to what the seniors have done,” Madison concluded. “They had to pull the team through all year, a team that had a lot of inexperience, and they should be very proud of their efforts and the legacy they left.”

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