A late goal buries the Blue Devils again.
Coming off a painful loss to Notre Dame, Duke conceded another late game-winner and fell 2-1 to UNC-Wilmington Tuesday night at Koskinen Stadium for its first nonconference loss of the season. Seahawk midfielder Jamie Dell beat defender Sebastien Ibeagha in the 79th minute and chipped the ball right over goalkeeper Alex Long for the decisive tally.
“It was our best player against maybe their best player,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “Unfortunately [Dell] got the best of him on that play. It was a great finish.”
Hoping to avenge last year’s downfall to the Seahawks, the Blue Devils (4-4-2) simply were not able to create many scoring opportunities against a tough UNC-Wilmington (5-3-1) defense that came into the contest allowing 1.19 goals a game.
The Blue Devils’ first-half struggles this season continued, as they were only able to muster one shot in the game's opening 45 minutes. Despite this, the game remained a scoreless draw at the half, as goalkeeper Alex Long registered three pivotal saves to keep the game level, including a diving stop in a 1-on-1 situation and a hard knock of the ball right over the crossbar.
A Duke team that has scored 12 of its 14 goals in the second half or later once again came out aggressively in the following period, creating chance after chance in hopes of breaking through. The Blue Devils have taken 30 more shots than opponents in the second half of games this season.
“We were trying to get forward quicker, and we did that to an extent," Kerr said. "We put them under pressure a bit, and it didn't work out in terms of the opportunities."
UNC-Wilmington struck first when Dell dribbled the ball near the post on the end line, forcing Long’s attention towards him, and then fired it into the middle where junior Jacob Vancompernolle easily volleyed it home in the 64th minute. Vancompernolle would get a yellow card for excessive celebration, but the 1-0 score line remained.
This ignited a Duke squad that hasn’t been shut out all year. When Seahawk goalkeeper Sam Williams misfired his punt to Duke sophomore Luis Rendon standing a few feet outside the penalty box, freshman Brody Huitema capitalized. He took a through ball from Rendon and then rocketed his shot into the upper right corner to even the game in the 77th minute.
But the Seahawks regained the lead just two minutes later, marking the sixth straight game for the Blue Devils decided in the final 15 minutes.
"It's a disappointing loss. We got what we deserved," Kerr said. "Wilmington outplayed us tonight."
Set pieces have been Duke’s bread and butter this season, but despite amassing eight corner kicks in the second half, the Blue Devils just couldn’t find the back of the net.
Trying for his second goal of the game, Huitema—Duke's leading scorer—took a corner from fellow freshman Seo-In Kim and had a header that ricocheted off the crossbar in the 86th minute. Blue Devil defender Alex Sauciuc attempted to level the game with a putback, but Williams scooped the ball up.
Duke conceded its last real chance to equalize when midfielder Sean Davis curved a free kick just over the crossbar in the 88th minute, to the dismay of the home crowd.
“We’re struggling at the moment,” Kerr said.