No. 16 Duke could not hold on to its 2-0 lead Sunday afternoon, settling for a draw in its first-ever matchup with ACC newcomer Syracuse at SU Soccer Stadium.
“It’s obviously disappointing when you’re up 2-0 at the half, and you worked hard to get the lead, to let it go,” head coach Robbie Church said. “I didn’t think we came out with the same kind of intensity as we did early in the match. We got a little sloppy with our passing.”
After losing 3-1 at No. 3 Wake Forest Thursday for their second straight loss, the Blue Devils (4-4-2, 1-2-1 in the ACC) looked as though they were ready to reverse their fortunes.
Duke opened up the scoring just 2:29 into the first half. Freshman midfielder Toni Payne managed to get a shot on goal off a turnover from the Orange. Syracuse goalkeeper Brittany Anghel reacted quickly enough to stop it but couldn’t hold on to it.
Senior forward Laura Weinberg, a leading goal-scorer for Duke last season, capitalized on the opportunity, collecting the rebound and slotting it into the far corner of the empty net to leave the Orange (4-5-1, 0-3-1) trailing 1-0.
Weinberg’s tally seemed especially important for a Duke offense that ranked 209th in scoring offense heading into this weekend’s road trip. After struggling to find the back of the net in her first eight contests, the game-opening goal marked her second in two games.
“We came out and played great,” Church said. “They worked hard, got a great goal early in the game. I thought it was a fantastic start.”
Just before the break, Duke’s other leading scorer of the 2012 season, redshirt senior Kim DeCesare, joined Weinberg in the scoring column to give Duke a comfortable two-goal lead.
After receiving a pass from senior defender Avery Rape, DeCesare chipped a shot over Anghel and into the back of the net for her third goal of the year.
Despite their promising start, the Blue Devils could not keep Syracuse off the scoreboard. After going 473 consecutive minutes without scoring, the Orange finally broke through on a set piece. Defender Maddie Iozzi lofted a corner kick into the 18-yard box in the 53rd minute.
After one of the Syracuse players dummied the ball, it got by goalkeeper Ali Kershner and deflected off of DeCesare into the net although the goal was credited to Orange forward Stephanie Skilton, Church said.
“It was just an unfortunate goal. It happens sometimes,” he said. “It was just an own goal that gave them a lot of momentum at that point.”
Eleven minutes later, Syracuse capitalized on that momentum. In the 18-yard box, sophomore midfielder Jackie Firenze found a way to get a touch on a ball in heavy traffic and directed it into the goal to tie the game at two.
“It was just kind of a mad scramble in our six-yard box,” Church said. “We’ve got to do a little bit of a better job clearing that ball.”
Trying to regain the lead, Duke could not find the answers in the final third of the field. DeCesare put two more shots on goal in regulation, and junior Kelly Cobb put a shot on goal as well, but Anghel held strong. The Blue Devils headed into overtime with a slight 13-11 advantage in shots.
Duke dominated the first period of overtime but still couldn’t find the game-winner. The Blue Devils had three corner kicks, a shot blocked and another shot saved by Anghel, while keeping Syracuse off the stat line offensively.
Duke had fewer chances in the second overtime period, and following one final save from Anghel—who finished with nine—in the 108th minute, the Blue Devils exited the field with the draw.
“We just didn’t get a good final ball,” Church said. “We had one or two really good attacks in overtime, but we just didn’t do a good job of finishing it…. We just unfortunately weren’t able to find that third goal.”