It was a business-as-usual affair for No. 4 Duke, as it overpowered a gritty conference opponent to push its winning streak to 12 games.
The Blue Devils played a physical and polished game on both sides of the ball to put away N.C. State 2-0 Thursday night at Koskinen Stadium. Juniors Kayla McCoy and Chelsea Burns were responsible for the goals.
“I think we’re playing well,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “That’s the best [N.C. State] team I’ve seen in 15 years.... I was very very happy with that win. I didn’t think we were as aggressive in the final third in the first half."
The first half was a frenetic one for the Blue Devils, as they traded possessions and set pieces with the Wolfpack. Although Duke (12-1-0, 5-0-0 in the ACC) held a slight offensive advantage throughout, the offense could not capitalize on its initial chances—Imani Dorsey ran offside once and had another shot graze the top of the crossbar.
Senior goalkeeper EJ Proctor staved off NC State (8-4-1, 1-3-1) with some pinball-style defending, catching and punching balls out of the air as the Wolfpack threatened the Blue Devil goal, until Duke found an offensive breakthrough in the 37th minute.
After a through ball landed right at her feet around midfield, McCoy beat her defender all the way into the six-yard box before firing off a shot from a tough angle across the goal line and into the bottom right corner.
“Chelsea made a great defensive effort and won the ball and was able to lift her head and see me out on the wing,” McCoy said. “The way N.C. State was defending us, I saw that I had space to run around the defender and I got around her. My goal was just to get in the box to give the best chance in any sense, and I saw the keeper shifting across. I was just able to slide it past her.”
With the goal near the end of the first half, the Blue Devils came out of the halftime locker room with all the momentum. Not content with her one goal, McCoy pulled up from the 18-yard box to try and test Wolfpack goalkeeper Sydney Wootten, but Wootten successfully deflected the knuckleball shot from down the middle.
But Duke’s aggressiveness did not end there. Drawing a free kick from the right edge of the box, senior Ashton Miller put in a deft cross that Ella Stevens flicked behind her to Chelsea Burns for a tap-in score.
The Blue Devils tried to add a third score with a curving rocket by Karlie Paschall that nearly beat Wootten to the far post. Although she did not enjoy the first goal of her career, Paschall was everywhere after being substituted in late in the first half. The freshman midfielder harangued the Wolfpack defense with well-timed runs and quick passes.
The defense's efforts also showed on the scoresheet with a sixth clean sheet of the season. Led by a pair of seniors in Morgan Reid and Schuyler DeBree as well as newcomer Taylor Mitchell, Duke's defense allowed just four shots on goal and one corner kick. Reid, DeBree and Mitchell ensured that Proctor was not seriously tested over the course of 90 minutes.
“It’s definitely helped me a lot,” Proctor said. “Just having Morgan, Schuyler, who’ve played together since we were all freshmen. Then you have Chelsea who came a year later. It makes having a freshman like Taylor Mitchell get into the flow of the game easier.... It’s easy to trust in them and not have to worry too much about organizing them.
Duke faces a quick turnaround as it readies to play No. 14 Florida State at home Sunday afternoon.