Although they didn’t get their first ACC win, the Blue Devils had a strong performance from goalkeeper Alex Long to force a scoreless draw.
Duke battled its conference rival, No. 20 Virginia, to a hard-fought 0-0 tie in front of its home crowd Tuesday night at Koskinen Stadium, posting its second consecutive goalless game after playing then-No. 12 North Carolina to a blank slate last Friday.
“I’m really proud of our defensive effort, [but] we really need to step up the offensive output,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “That’s something we’re struggling with right now.”
Long demonstrated why he’s ranked at the top of the ACC in saves, putting forth a wide variety of diving efforts to ensure a shutout against a Cavalier team that averaged 2.4 goals per game coming into the contest.
“He’s a big presence and we needed him tonight,” Kerr said. “He stepped up big time.”
Long posted 10 saves, a career high, including three crucial stops in overtime during a sequence where Virginia (6-3-2, 2-2-2 in the ACC) was able to muster five shots within 37 seconds.
Cavalier junior Eric Bird found himself in a one-on-one situation with Long and tried to chip the ball over his head for the game-winner, but the Duke goalkeeper batted the ball away. It landed right at the feet of Virginia freshman Jordan Allen, who directed his shot toward the now-unattended goal, just to be deflected away by the sea of defenders. Long somehow recovered, getting back into position to make two more clutch stops, before the fifth shot of the attack finally went wide.
“Honestly I kind of blacked out... but it was just make the first save, focus on the next one,” said Long. “My defense did a great job getting back, so I’m happy to have them back there with me.”
The defense’s miraculous efforts almost enabled the Blue Devils (4-4-4, 0-3-3) to get the victory when Duke forward Brody Huitema blasted an attempt on goal from more than 30 feet away in the game’s last minute. Goalkeeper Jeff Gal punched the ball over the crossbar, however, to keep the game level.
This was one of the Blue Devils’ few scoring chances, as they only took nine shots compared to the 22 from the Cavaliers—marking the third time in four games that Duke has been outshot by a double-digit number.
The Blue Devils controlled possession throughout the game, but just couldn’t provide opportunities for themselves against a stringent Virginia defense that has already shut out five opponents this year.
“I’m proud of the way we approached things, and defensively [we were] very resolute, so excited about that aspect,” Kerr said. “But we need to keep working on our offense, and make sure that we create more chances because we didn’t create that many tonight, and we need to really execute in that final third.”
Although disappointed not to pick up its first ACC win, the team was satisfied with their ability to prevent the Cavaliers from snatching the victory. Including Tuesday night’s contest, five of the last eight games between Duke and Virginia have reached overtime.
“It’s not easy playing Virginia,” Kerr said. “So [we’re] happy to not lose the game but disappointed not to get a win.”