Duke head coach Robbie Church has enjoyed many milestone accomplishments in a career that has included two Final Fours, but his team achieved a new first for him Sunday.

In a game that was defined by physicality and defense, the fourth-ranked Blue Devils took advantage of a few Virginia Tech miscues to come away with a 3-0 win in their ACC opener. With the win, Duke has now won its last eight games in a row, matching the longest streak in program history and surpassing the longest in Church’s 17-year tenure. 

The match at Koskinen Stadium began as a defensive struggle, as neither team could consistently create scoring opportunities. However, with 2:19 to go in the first half, junior midfielder Chelsea Burns was fouled in the box and converted a penalty kick to give the Blue Devils the lead. In the second half, Duke kept its foot on the gas as Imani Dorsey set up fellow senior Ashton Miller for a goal. Then, only eight minutes later, Dorsey scored a goal of her own to put the game out of reach. 

Although Virginia Tech’s defense broke down in the middle of the match, Duke managed to stay dominant on the defensive end throughout. The Blue Devils only allowed four shots on goal all day, and that performance was critical in helping the midfielders and forwards manufacture opportunities at the other end. 

“We’ve been great all year defensively,” Church said. “I didn’t think we started off the game...as sharp offensively, but we were really solid in the back. We work hard defensively from our forwards on back, and if you put a zero on the board, you’re never going to lose a game, and that’s what we work for.” 

Offensively, it was a tale of two halves for the Blue Devils (8-1-0, 1-0-0 in the ACC), as the Hokies initially frustrated Duke’s forwards. For the first 43 minutes, the Virginia Tech defense bent but never broke. Sophomore goalie Mandy McGlynn made some impressive saves, and the Blue Devils squandered several opportunities. But the Hokie defense made its first critical mistake with the foul just before halftime that led to Burns’ fourth goal of the season.

“We’re always going to have missed opportunities. And I think it’s better to create those opportunities and get those shots on goals because then it builds our confidence and keeps us going,” Dorsey said of the missed opportunities. “We were finally able to break through in the second half.”

Duke continued putting pressure on Virginia Tech’s defense, and it wasn’t long until it put the match away. Just more than five minutes into the half, Dorsey delivered a pass back to Miller cutting into the box, and Miller rifled it into the back of the net for her first goal of the season. Then, with 31:18 to go, Dorsey was on the receiving end of a gorgeous through ball from freshman Katie Paschall, getting behind the Hokie defense and scoring for her team-high seventh goal of the year. 

The two teams fought tooth and nail in a game defined by its physicality. Virginia Tech (6-2-1, 0-1-0) had only lost one of its last five matchups against Duke, so the Blue Devils knew they needed to match their opponent’s intensity. 

“They’re a big physical team that likes to break our rhythm,” Dorsey said. “I think we played through that today and I was really proud of us for it.”

The two teams ended up committing a total of 24 fouls—getting whistled for 12 apiece—which could have rattled a Duke team that relies on its aggressive play.

“We like to play tough a little bit, and so at times it was a little overboard,” Miller said. “But obviously, it helped us get our first goal, and that kind of set the tone, so I didn’t mind it much since it worked out in our favor.”

Although the fouls were certainly frustrating for both sides, Duke was ultimately able to take advantage of those mistakes and come away with the win. The Blue Devils will look to surpass the longest winning streak in program history when they visit Notre Dame Thursday night.