For the second game in a row, the Blue Devils outshot their opponent by double-digits, yet failed to capitalize on many opportunities. This time out, however, they ended up on the winning side of another close finish.

No. 19 Duke held off a late Elon surge to pull out a 1-0 victory at Koskinen Stadium Tuesday night for its eighth victory this season, surpassing last year’s win total with seven games remaining on the schedule. Daniele Proch’s early goal proved to be the game-winner in a match the Blue Devils largely controlled until the final few minutes of the game. 

“I’m looking forward to the day when we let loose and score most of our opportunities, because that will be a fun day,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “As we go forward and we keep winning, not playing our best but with room for improvement, I’m happy, and another shutout tonight makes me very happy. We’re going to keep marching forward.”

The Blue Devils (8-2-1) brought heavy pressure on offense from the beginning of the game, pressing forward against an Elon defense that entered the game ranked third in the nation with a 0.4 goals against average. Phoenix goalkeeper Matthew Jegier had several impressive early saves, including a diving stop on a shot from senior Brian White, Duke’s leading scorer. 

However, Jegier, who is second in the nation with seven shutouts this season, could not hold off the Blue Devils for long. About 13 minutes into the game, senior Carter Manley sent a long feed to the top of the box to his classmate, Cameron Moseley. Moseley leaped above his defender and redirected the ball to Proch, who finished the play with a shot under the arms of Jegier from the right side of the goal. 

“[Moseley is] trying to be an option for us in the air. He’s 6-foot-4 already and he’s athletic, so when he jumps it’s like 6-foot-8, 7-foot,” Kerr said. “He can really get up there and direct those headers, and he’s a real asset for us. He did a great job of knocking it in Daniele’s path, and Daniele did a great job from an acute angle to finish.”

But after that early goal, Duke could not find the back of the net despite numerous open opportunities. Barely two minutes into the second half, Proch found himself with the ball less than 10 yards out in front of nearly a completely open net, but directed his shot off the top crossbar. White also had two open chances to put the game away in the closing minutes, but was thwarted twice, once by a diving Jegier and once by an impressive sliding stop by a Phoenix defender. 

Although the Blue Devils continued to struggle to finish opportunities on the offensive end, they were solid again on defense, matching their total shutouts from last year with their fourth of this season. Duke allowed just six Elon shots and only two on goal, both of which came in the second half.

“[Goalkeeper] Will [Pulisic] does a good job in goal, and the other three [backs] are fantastic,” Kerr said. “They do a good job bringing the ball out from the back four, as they really understand when to play it long [and] when to play it short. They’re comfortable on the ball, and you can tell we’re a different team because of it.”

Although the Blue Devils were in control for much of the game, the only time the game was in doubt came in the final minutes. Elon (3-2-6) mounted a desperate attempt to tie the score, pressing hard on offense and forcing chances against the Duke defense. With less than a minute to go in the game, Phoenix midfielder Billy Beresford fired a shot at Pulisic, but the freshman from Mechanicsville, Va., handled it to seal the victory for the Blue Devils and extend Elon’s winless streak, which dates back to Sept. 8. 

For Duke, the game was the first of a three-game stretch spread across six days that includes road games at Pittsburgh Friday and No. 10 Georgetown Monday. With a win under their belt, however, the Blue Devils have extended their best start to a season since 2006.

“It’s all about keeping our emotions in check. I think we’re a lot better at that this year in terms of how we deal with these situations,” senior back Marcus Fjørtoft said. “For us in the final third, especially defense, that’s our red zone. We embrace that, because that’s our role and the challenge, and that’s where we can show who we are. We’ll do the quiet work and then we’ll let the attack do the rest.”