For the third year in a row, Duke and Elon tied in what has become an annual intrastate matchup. The two teams battled to a 0-0 stalemate Tuesday evening in Elon, N.C.
The Phoenix’s high-octane offense, which ranks 12th in the nation, entered the contest averaging 13.4 shots per game. Tuesday evening, the Blue Devils' sturdy defensive unit limited Elon just seven.
“Our game plan worked to perfection,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “We limited their looks at the goal, and we didn’t allow them any clear-cut opportunities, so I’m really proud of the way we played.”
Quality chances to score were few and far between for both teams. Duke (7-7-2) and Elon (12-4-2) fired just two and three shots on goal, respectively. The Blue Devils won the corner kick battle 4-0 but failed to convert on these opportunities.
“We got some good crosses in the corner kicks,” Kerr said. “We just didn’t get on the end of them. Elon defended well. They knew that was one of our strengths, just as we know that Chris Thomas is one of their strengths. We kind of negated each other in that regard.”
Thomas, the leading scorer in Division I, entered the matchup averaging 4.24 shots per game. Duke held him to one on the evening.
Phoenix senior Jordan Smith took two headers in the first 23 minutes, but Blue Devil senior goalkeeper James Belshaw came up with saves to keep Elon off the scoreboard. During that span, Duke sophomore Riley Wolfe shot the ball wide of the goal in the first of his three shots. In the last 22 minutes of the opening half, there was little action near the goals, as neither squad took a shot.
Blue Devil freshman Zach Mathers, who scored his first career goal against Virginia Tech Saturday, had the best scoring opportunity of the evening in the 54th minute. His goalbound strike was saved as sophomore goalkeeper Nathan Dean tipped it onto the crossbar. Two seconds before the second half drew to a close, Duke sophomore Matt Slotnick took the final shot of the game, missing the mark and sending the game into overtime.
The overtime periods lacked much action, featuring just one shot by each team.
“We executed well until the final third, and that’s what we’ve been struggling with all year,” Kerr said.
The Blue Devils hope to work out their struggles in the final third as they close out their regular season Friday against SIU Edwardsville and begin ACC tournament play next week. The pressure is on for the Blue Devils, who are still in the running for an NCAA tournament berth with a .500 record.
“Our upcoming games are must-win games, no question about it,” Kerr said. “Friday night is huge for us— [SIU Edwardsville] is 28th in the RPI. They’re a very good team. We have our work cut out for us.”