Looking to end a three-game losing streak, the Duke men's soccer team (5-5) took the field to face the Mercer Bears (6-5). With regular goalkeeper Scott Maslin on the bench nursing an injury, freshman Justin Trowbridge made his collegiate debut in goal for the Blue Devils and took advantage of his opportunity, allowing just one goal and leading the team to an impressive 4-1 win.
"It was nice to get in as a freshman, especially as keeper," Trowbridge said. "To get a game in and feel what it's like to step on the field [will] help me feel more comfortable in the future."
In a game that featured balanced scoring for Duke and allowed several younger players to get some playing time, the Blue Devils jumped out to a lead by scoring in the eighth minute of the match. Senior midfielder Noah Lewkowitz stole the ball, made a quick move to shake the defender and raced into the box, putting the ball past helpless Mercer goalie Andrew Castrichini for his fourth goal of the season.
After sophomore defender Matt Ahumada made a nice steal and pass ahead, senior midfielder Demetrio Sanchez scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season in the 27th minute to give the Blue Devils an early two-goal lead.
"We came out on fire [with] so much intensity," sophomore forward Jordan Cila said. "We were anxious to get going and get some goals in because this was a must win game for us."
Mercer kept it close when junior forward Benjamin Arhin scored his first goal of the season nine seconds after being substituted into the game. Arhin received the ball on the sideline from junior defender Oskar Modin, dribbled in with the defense giving him some cushion, and shot the ball over the reach of Trowbridge to make the score 2-1 going into halftime.
After a Trevor Perea strike made the score 3-1 in the 54th minute, Mercer coach Tom Melville was handed a red card one minute later for something he said to the sideline referee. The game was delayed several minutes until Melville finally left after security officials were paged to the field.
"This was the worst officiating I've ever seen, that's what spoiled the game," Melville said. "The officials decided the game."
If the coach was hoping to fire up his team, his attempt was futile, as Duke further cushioned its lead in the 64th minute when Cila recorded his fourth goal of the season on an assist from sophomore midfielder Justin Bodiya. The Blue Devils rode their 4-1 lead to the end of the game, moving the ball around well, and keeping the ball out of their defensive zone.
Looking down the road to N.C. State, Duke coach John Rennie said the team needs to build on Wednesday's efforts.
"It's one game, it's a win, and we needed that, so we're happy with that," he said. "We've got three days to get ready for N.C. State, which I'm sure will be a war."