Nobody likes to settle for a draw—but it might be just what Duke needs.
The Blue Devils held strong against No. 16 Virginia Tech to hold the game at 1-1 after 110 minutes of play at Koskinen Stadium. With the draw, Duke managed to contribute points to its record which it desperately needed if it wants to keep its postseason hopes alive after a disappointing loss Thursday to No. 1 Virginia.
“I feel great about our performance,” head coach Robbie Church said. “It’s been a tough week—we had two nationally ranked teams, two of the best teams in the country. We could’ve had a win, and I thought we had the most dangerous of the chances. We always want to win when we play, but today, I’m happy with the tie.”
Both teams had plenty of shots on goal, but displayed little accuracy due to the physical style of play. Virginia Tech (9-1-2, 4-1-1 in the ACC) drew 15 fouls to Duke’s eight during the course of the match.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be as physical as it was,” senior defender Natasha Anasi said. "But we expected them to come out and play hard. They’re always a strong team.”
The referees took a lenient approach to the game and seemed to prefer to let the girls duke it out on the field rather than blow the whistle, much to the chagrin of many in the crowd. Although some controversial calls were made involving physical contact, it had little effect on the outcome of the game, Church said.
“We knew they would be physical, and they let the game get physical, which is why you saw bodies flying all over,” he said. “But both teams wanted to win. The refs really didn’t have any effect on the game.”
Hokie midfielder Ashley Meier took advantage of a moment after Duke (4-5-2, 1-3-2) goalkeeper Ali Kershner dove for a ball 12 minutes into the second half, finding the back of the net and finally breaking the scoreless tie.
The Blue Devils continued to attack after surrendering the game's first goal, and junior forward Kelly Cobb blasted a cross from senior forward Laura Weinberg into the back of the net from 22 yards out in the 74th minute. Cobb’s shot evened the score at 1-1 and kept the Blue Devils in the game.
Cobb had sat out for much of the first half after one of her shoes broke. Once she left the field to fix it, she was unable to reenter the game until the second half.
“Our team kept the momentum up,” Cobb said. “That’s the way we are—everyone fulfills her role on and off the bench.”
After a number of tight losses to open conference play, salvaging a draw at home could be just what the Blue Devils need to right the ship.
Duke has been plagued by injury-related absences from midfielders Rebecca Quinn and Kara Wilson as well as goalkeeper Meghan Thomas in the early-going, leaving Church to cobble together a roster and move players around from their preferred positions in order to fill the holes. With many of those players returning in the coming weeks, Church said he is optimistic about the back half of the season.
“The takeaway is that we’re playing our best soccer of the year now,” Church said. “We’re the most committed, in terms of players both on the field and on the sidelines. We’re working extremely hard. We’ve turned the calendars to October, and we’ve got to win some games, there’s no question about that. The kids know that. But I feel good about where we are.”