Once again the Blue Devils lost by one goal. This time the one score was a cruel one: a penalty kick.
Losing 1-0 to top-seeded Penn State (20-3-2) Friday night, third-seeded Duke (15-6-2) was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the quarterfinals.
“Congratulations to Penn State, Erica [Walsh] and her staff,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said in a press release. “They do a fantastic job. I don’t think we could have executed our game plan any better. We created a number of opportunities, but the name of the game is to be able to finish on your opportunities, and we didn’t do that.”
The Blue Devils outshot the Nittany Lions throughout the game, ending with 19 shots to Penn State’s seven. Duke junior Kaitlyn Kerr, who had a hat trick in the Tournament’s first round, fired the team’s first three shots. She could have put Duke up after a one-on-one opportunity against Nittany Lion goalkeeper Erin McNulty, but McNulty was able to record the save.
After the Blue Devils could not capitalize, Penn State capitalized from the penalty spot. Christina Nairn was fouled in the box and stepped up to convert against Duke’s Tara Campbell. It was the first time in the tournament that the Blue Devils trailed.
Both teams had chances to score as the first half progressed with Campbell denying the Nittany Lions’ Maya Hayes and Duke’s Nicole Lipp hitting the crossbar on the volley.
The second half started with Penn State in control, but with the season on the line Duke went on the offensive and put pressure on McNulty’s goal. The Blue Devils had 11 shots in the second half, but could not score the equalizer.
“I don’t think we did a good job of finishing,” Church said. “The opportunities we had, we played them up high where [McNulty] could get to them. She’s a good player, she’s an experienced player. She came out and covered angles really well, but we didn’t do a great job of finishing. But she caused that too.”
The Nittany Lions advance to the semifinals to face Florida State, with North Carolina and Stanford in the other matchup. For Duke this meant a loss in the quarterfinals, falling one step short of a second consecutive trip to the College Cup.