After stumbling in a 2-1 loss to Santa Clara Friday night, Duke bounced back Sunday and defeated Delaware 2-1 to earn its first win of the season.
“It feels great,” senior goalkeeper James Belshaw said. “It’s been a long time coming. I think Friday night we had the performance, but things didn’t go our way for one reason or another. But credit to the lads who came out today. We came out fighting, and it wasn’t pretty, but we stuck in it.”
During a hot, muggy Sunday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium, the Blue Devils fell behind Delaware (0-3-0) early when Joe Dipre capitalized on a quality opportunity, blasting a goal past Belshaw six minutes in.
But Duke (1-2-0) quickly responded, benefitting from several key performances by freshmen off the bench. In the 27th minute, freshman Ryan Thompson knocked a cross from the left side, and sophomore Nick Palodichuk was there to deliver a header into the net that tied the game.
Just three minutes later, off a Thompson throw-in, junior Sebastien Ibeagha delivered a precise header pass to freshman Luis Rendon, who then drove the ball into the back right corner of the net. It was Rendon’s first career goal.
“[Thompson has] that wonderful left foot, and he served a nice ball to Palodichuk,” head coach John Kerr said. “We need more service from him, because he’s got some great quality crossing. And then [Rendon], he’s a talented young player. He’s just finding his feet now, getting used to the physicality of the game, the speed of it. But if you give him an open chance he’s going to take it, left or right foot.”
Duke led 2-1 at the half and never relinquished the lead.
Friday night was more frustrating for the Blue Devils. In the team’s home opener against Santa Clara (1-2-0), Duke outshot the Broncos 6-3 in the first half, but were unable to capitalize. In the 56th minute of play, Ibeagha sent a header into the net off of an assist from sophomore Sean Davis.
The 1-0 lead was short-lived, though, as Santa Clara responded with two quick goals in the 70th and 73rd minutes. First, Erik Hurtado took advantage of a penalty kick from the Duke penalty box to tie the game. Then, just three minutes later, Ryan Masch scored the go-ahead goal for the Broncos off of a corner kick.
“[We were a] little bit naïve in our defending, and [lacked] communication,” Kerr said. “But we responded well. We dominated many parts of that game against a really good Santa Clara team. They’ve got a couple special players, especially Hurtado up front who causes all kinds of problems. I thought Belshaw and Sebastien Ibeagha in particular did a great job.”
Overall, the team finished 1-1 in the John Rennie Nike Invitational. Despite some costly mental lapses Friday night, the Blue Devils showcased poise from their leaders and several freshmen who will have the opportunity to make an impact on offense.
“I think at the beginning of the season we’re still trying to get to know each other,” Thompson said. “Everyone’s still trying to find a rhythm. So I think we’re glad with how we played, but now we have to get the final edge, get that killer touch and finish them off.”
Duke will have the chance to find that killer touch against Virginia Friday in its first ACC matchup of the season.