Hens rally past Duke in OT, earn field hockey Final Four

DURHAM, N.C. — Delaware’s dream all year was to make the NCAA Division I Final Four in field hockey.

But, trailing No. 1 Duke by two goals with less than 10 minutes left on Sunday, that dream was fading fast.

All of which made the eighth-ranked Blue Hens’ 3-2 overtime victory over the Blue Devils in the NCAA quarterfinals all the more stunning.

Delaware scored twice in the final nine minutes of regulation to send the game into OT before standout Greta Nauck tallied the game-winner on a breakaway three minutes into overtime.

Delaware’s Greta Nauck is mobbed by her teammates after scoring the game-winning goal on Sunday, as the No. 8 Blue Hens came from behind to upset No. 1 Duke, 3-2, in overtime in the NCAA Field Hockey Tournament second round. Delaware advances to the tournament semifinals. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

Delaware’s Greta Nauck is mobbed by her teammates after scoring the game-winning goal on Sunday, as the No. 8 Blue Hens came from behind to upset No. 1 Duke, 3-2, in overtime in the NCAA Field Hockey Tournament second round. Delaware advances to the tournament semifinals. (Delaware sports information/Mark Campbell)

The sophomore midfielder was mobbed by her teammates after the Hens (21-2) earned the program’s first ticket to the field hockey national semifinals since 1982.

“That is an excellent question, ‘What just happened?’” said Nauck, a native of Krefeld, Germany. “We didn’t play Delaware hockey in the first portion of the game. We didn’t follow our game plan, but we never stopped believing, even when we were down by two goals.

“We’ve worked so hard to achieve our goal of reaching the Final Four. In the end, we played Delaware hockey and finished the game strong.”

“Wow, what an amazing experience and accomplishment for our program,” said Delaware coach Rolf van de Kerkhof. “I am so proud of, happy and excited for our players group, staff and all Blue Hens. Back in February, we set out our quest to punch a ticket to the NCAA Final Four, and today we did just that.”

The Hens will face No. 14 Princeton (12-7) in Friday’s national semifinals at Old Dominion’s L.R. Hill Complex at 4:45 p.m. The Tigers upset seventh-ranked Virginia on Sunday.

Delaware has won 17 straight games since losing to Princeton, 4-2, on Sept. 11. The Hens’ only other loss came at ODU on Sept. 2.

No. 4 North Carolina plays No. 6 Connecticut in the other semifinal with the national championship game slated for Sunday at 1 p.m.

Down 2-0 against Duke (16-4), Nauck netted her 30th goal of the year off a penalty corner with assists from seniors Maura Zarkoski and Kayla Devlin. Freshman Ally Pollak then tied the game at 2-2 in the 68th minute as she tapped it in at the back post. Devlin assisted on the goal.

Delaware junior goalie Emmeline Oltmans came up big again for the Hens as she tied a career-high and set a program NCAA Tournament record with 11 saves. The Devils outshot Delaware, 23-13, but that margin was only 12-11 after halftime.

“They played extremely well, but we kept going and fighting,” said Oltmans. “Our first goal this season was to get the CAA championship and we’ve now reached our second goal of the Final Four. This really means a lot as we’ve all worked so hard to get to this point. We’ve won four CAA titles, but we’re not ready to stop playing.”

Reach the Delaware State News newsroom at newsroom@newszap.com

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