No team—let alone the second-ranked team in the nation—wants to open conference play 0-2. After falling to No. 1 Florida State Thursday and sitting in a 2-2 stalemate with Miami Sunday at the end of regulation, No. 2 Duke needed a spark in overtime to avoid a winless weekend in the Sunshine State against two ACC foes.
The Blue Devils (7-2-0, 1-1-0 in the ACC) found that spark, eking out a 3-2 victory against the Hurricanes (4-4-1, 0-2-0) at Cobb Stadium in Coral Gables, Fla.
“It wasn’t the prettiest game we played all year by any means, but it’s probably the best win we’ve had,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “We had a lot of emotions and frustrations at the end of the game. We had to block those out and push them out of the way. To get our composure and come back and score the game-winning goal in overtime, when they had all the momentum, was a great testament to the character of this team.”
In sudden-death overtime, junior Laura Weinberg finished off a scramble in the box to break the 2-2 deadlock and seal the victory for the Blue Devils.
Duke initially held a 1-0 advantage behind a goal from freshman Cassie Pecht, who scored 12 minutes into the game outside the 18-yard box off an assist from junior Gilda Doria. The Blue Devils held that lead until the 79th minute of regulation, when Miami freshman Ava Ambrose tied the game at one with a header.
“We possessed the ball well,” Church said. “We really passed and moved and ran at their back line. We created a number of scoring opportunities. And credit Miami—they hung in there and hung in there and got two goals late. It was disappointing giving up those two goals, but I thought overall we played pretty well.”
Blue Devil junior Kim DeCesare responded with a header goal to put Duke up 2-1, but the Hurricanes did not let the Blue Devils get away with a regulation win. Ambrose struck again off a corner kick opportunity with 20 seconds remaining on the clock, sending the game into overtime.
“[Ambrose] is a good player, no question about it,” Church said. “I think we really neutralized her for a lot of the match, but in the end she stepped it up and gave two goals.”
Ambrose’s two goals coupled with stellar play from Miami goalkeeper Emily Lillard—who recorded eight saves on the day—kept the Hurricanes in the game. In the sixth minute of overtime, Weinberg secured the win for the Blue Devils with an unassisted tally.
Sunday’s game marks the end of the heavy traveling portion of the season, with the Blue Devils returning for their next two games at home against Maryland and Clemson. Eight of their past 11 games have been on the road.
“We’ve been on the road since Wednesday, and this is our second five-day road trip in two weeks,” Church said. “Being on the road for so long is just vicious. We’ve got nine games left, six of them at home. We’ve got some very good teams ahead of us, but we’re over the tough part of the travel.”