Duke fought hard in its toughest ACC challenge yet but failed to come away with the upset after allowing two late goals to a still-undefeated Fighting Irish squad, falling 3-1 Friday night at Alumni Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
"We hung with them," Coach John Kerr recalled. "We're disappointed with the result. The score line's not a true reflection of the game."
With the score knotted at 1-1 in the closing minutes, Duke (4-3-2, 0-3-1 in the ACC) appeared to be heading to overtime before an 88th minute goal by Notre Dame (4-0-3, 2-0-2) midfielder Patrick Hodan put the Fighting Irish ahead. Teammate Harrison Shipp added another just a minute later on a penalty kick when he floated the ball over a diving Duke goalkeeper Alex Long to seal the deal.
The Blue Devils knew Friday's game would be no small task, playing on the road against a team that didn't lose a single game at home last season.
"They’re a very good team and that’s a tough place to play," Kerr said.
After a stagnant first half without too many opportunities on offense, both teams turned up the tempo at halftime and came out scoring. The Fighting Irish got on the board first on a header from defender Max Lachowecki that snuck past Long in the 46th minute.
Duke didn't wait long to net the equalizer, which came off a beautiful cross from junior Jack Coleman four minutes later. Coleman seemed to be looking to set up a teammate on a header in the box, but the ball soared over the defenders and past Notre Dame goalie Patrick Wall for the goal.
"Even when we went down early in the second half we responded well and had a great goal from Coleman," Kerr said.
Despite Duke's offense not registering a shot in the first half, the team's defense picked up the slack. Led by captain Sebastien Ibeagha, the defensive unit managed to curtail a fast Irish team and was able to force them to make adjustments early on.
"For the first 20 minutes of the game, they were very, very dangerous, Kerr said. "We were organized in terms of understanding what they were trying to accomplish and we cut off a lot of their flow."
A resilient defense against high-level competition served as the silver lining in Duke's latest narrow defeat at the hands of an ACC newcomer.
Despite the loss, Kerr said he remains hopeful that his team will be able to take away the positives and build on them going forward.
"It’s a tough time right now, but we have a good team and a lot of great players and the staff," Kerr said. "They worked really hard tonight and I’m really proud of them."