In a duel between the two highest-scoring teams in the ACC, all of Duke’s offensive weapons showed up, and the Blue Devils came out on top to earn their second conference victory of the week.
After No. 23 Boston College (8-4-2, 2-3 in the ACC) erased Duke’s dominant first half with an early second-half goal, strikes from team-leading scorers Laura Weinberg and Kim DeCesare propelled No. 7 Duke (10-3-1, 4-2-1) to a 4-2 victory Sunday at Koskinen Stadium.
“We haven’t had a weekend where we picked up six points, so I thought the energy was great when we started off,” head coach Robbie Church said. “I thought the ball movement was unbelievable. I thought we created some really, really good chances.”
Heading into the contest, the usually potent Blue Devil offense had failed to score a first-half goal in three of its last four games.
“We knew we had to come out strong,” freshman forward Cassie Pecht said. “We hadn’t really played a full 90 minutes the whole season yet, so that was our main goal.”
Against the Eagles, Duke attacked early and often, racking up a 5-0 shot advantage in the first 20 minutes. Less than three minutes in, it looked as if Duke went ahead when junior midfielder Kaitlyn Kerr headed in a cross. The goal was disallowed due to an offsides call, but Kerr continued to attack, just missing a set-piece header and creating several chances for teammates in the offensive third.
Slightly more than 21 minutes into the game, the Blue Devils finally broke through as Pecht played a ball across the face of the goal, and Kerr slid across the 6-yard box to get a foot on the ball and put away the goal.
“We’re better when Kaitlyn is in the middle of everything,” Church said. “That’s who Kaitlyn Kerr is. She always plays hard. She’s one of our inspirational leaders on the field, off the field too. We play off of Kaitlyn’s energy, so when Kaitlyn’s in the middle of everything—when we see her with that much energy, that much movement on the field—then we know good things are happening for us.”
Kerr continued to facilitate the offense throughout the first half, and Boston College did not manage to put a shot anywhere near the net for the remainder of the period. Still, Duke could not find a second goal before the break.
“As we talked about at halftime, the problem was we only had one goal,” Church said. “We didn’t have the second goal or the third goal that would break their spirits. We worked hard enough to get those goals, but we just didn’t finish them.”
When the Eagles retook the field, they wasted no time trying to jumpstart their offense, getting off two shots in the first five and a half minutes.
It was a Blue Devil giveaway, however, that let Boston College back in the game. After a misplaced pass, the Eagles launched a counterattack that freed a lane into the 18-yard-box for midfielder Kristen Mewis, whose nine goals heading into the match ranked her second in the ACC. Mewis calmly slotted the ball in the right side of the net to tie the game with 36:40 left.
With its first-half performance neutralized, Duke regained control of the game behind efforts from its two most reliable scorers.
First, Weinberg—who averages a goal per game—collected a deflection of junior Gilda Doria’s corner kick inside the 18-yard-box and scored to give the Blue Devils the lead back in the 64th minute.
“The game got physical in the second half,” Church said. “We got knocked around. We didn’t have the same rhythm of play in the second half, but we still were attacking. We still got dynamic attacking players, and we were able to break them down in a different way.”
Then, in the 75th minute, DeCesare scored a goal of her own off Pecht’s ACC-leading ninth assist of the season to add some insurance.
“Kimmy’s been in a little bit of a slump for scoring but that big old grin came across her face when she scored that first goal,” Church said. “So, it was great to see that because she’s such a wonderful person and just does a fantastic job for us.”
The comfort of a two-goal lead did not last long for Duke.
Three minutes after their goal, the Blue Devils gave up a corner kick, and Mewis—ranked second in the ACC in assists as well—found midfielder Kate McCarthy, who trapped the ball near the face of the goal, turned and fired it past Duke goalkeeper Tara Campbell.
“It’s good to score goals,” DeCesare said. “But at the same time, I think we really need to continue to work on keeping them out of the back of our net.”
Although Boston College continued to pressure the Duke back line, the Blue Devils had the more dangerous opportunities.
And at the 1:44 mark, DeCesare added the insurance goal again. Scoring off Doria’s third assist of the game, DeCesare took Duke’s lead to 4-2 to secure the win.
“We weren’t too happy with only one goal in the first half,” Pecht said. “So we had to come out strong and play a full 90 minutes, and we put them away in the second half.”