Last year, West Virginia was Duke’s Achilles’ heel. The Blue Devils lost 3-1 on their home turf in September before falling 1-0 to the eventual national runners-up in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, squandering a chance to avenge their 2015 national title loss to Penn State.
Needless to say, No. 11 Duke still had scores to settle heading to Morgantown, W.V., for a matchup with the third-ranked Mountaineers Friday night.
And settle the score it did.
The Blue Devils dealt West Virginia a convincing 4-0 loss Friday at Dick Dlesk Soccer Stadium, marking their sixth straight win and their third straight shutout. The Mountaineers—who beat the then-No. 1 Nittany Lions last week—had not dropped a decision by four goals or more since losing 5-0 to Penn State in August 2011.
Duke junior Kayla McCoy led the winning effort with two goals in the second half, classmate Kat McDonald notched her first career goal in the 38th minute and senior captain Imani Dorsey scored her sixth goal in as many games. McCoy—who sat out most of last season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon—cited the Blue Devils’ history as a motivating factor in Friday’s rout.
“Everybody had those games in the back of our head, knowing that last year we weren’t able to do what we wanted to do and what we believed that we could do with those games,” McCoy said. “We just came out tonight and we were wanting it more than ever and believing in ourselves more than ever, too. We just wanted it more than West Virginia did and we were able to work harder than they did and we were able to pull it off.”
The contest opened as a back-and-forth affair, with both sides notching three shots through the opening 20 minutes and the Mountaineers (4-2-0) taking three corner kicks to Duke’s one. McCoy threatened West Virginia goalkeeper Rylee Foster early with two on-target header shots, but the sophomore—who owned the seventh-best goals against average in the nation last year—deflected both attempts.
It wasn’t until the 29th minute that Dorsey sent a long shot from outside the 18-yard box past Foster and into the right-side netting to put the Blue Devils (6-1-0) on the board. The Elkridge, Md., native leads Duke with 13 points on the season and has been the primary offensive sparkplug for the team.
“When I feel like I have a good shot, then I’ll take it, and that’s what I felt like tonight, and it just worked out perfectly,” Dorsey said. “The fact that we’re finding these opportunities and are able to work with each other when we’re counterattacking is making us better and better. Knowing that we were able to produce more goals tonight was huge.”
After Dorsey opened the scoring for the Blue Devils, it did not take long for the floodgates to open. Less than 10 minutes later, McDonald carried the ball nearly 30 yards upfield to the top of the box and drove a hard shot into the bottom left corner of the net.
The Raleigh, N.C., native—who has seen increased playing time since sophomore Mia Gyau was sidelined for the season with ACL and MCL tears—helped Duke close the first half with a comfortable lead and all of the momentum. Her first goal as a Blue Devil could not have come at a more welcome time for head coach Robbie Church.
“When [Imani] hit that ball, it looked like it just relieved everybody and we just relaxed a little bit,” Church said. “We started moving the ball around. Kat’s goal was huge at the end of the half. She’s probably not had a bigger goal. That was huge.”
Although Duke had a significant lead heading into the final 45 minutes of the contest, a squad as talented and resilient as the Mountaineers could have easily pulled their way back into it.
But the Blue Devils had other plans. Just 7:27 into the period, senior defender Schuyler DeBree lofted a ball into the box for McCoy to run onto. The Lincolnwood, Ill., native chipped the ball over Foster and just inside the right post.
Her second goal came less than 10 minutes later from similar range. McCoy charged the box and punched home a feed from sophomore striker Ella Stevens through the scramble and into the back of the net. McCoy—who led the team in scoring last year before injuring herself against Boston College Sept. 17—is primed to return as one of Duke’s top offensive weapons this season with four goals and two assists through seven games.
“We knew it was coming. We knew it was coming the whole time,” Church said. “[Kayla’s] a real professional. She prepares and she just works and continues to work. And she’s a goal scorer. Goal scorers are eventually going to score goals, and tonight she just stuck with it.”
With No. 21 Utah and a grueling conference schedule on the horizon, the Blue Devils could not have found a better time to fit all the pieces together. They will host the Utes riding a wave of momentum before beginning ACC play next week.
Friday’s victory should put Utah and the rest of the college soccer community on high alert. Duke has once again proven itself to be a serious title contender.
“It’s a big statement, and it says we can go and play with anybody in the country, home or away,” Church said. “I’m sure people will look at this and raise some eyebrows.”