It was a Senior Day to remember as the Blue Devils put in a dominant performance in a victory against Pittsburgh.
Duke scored five goals in the first 25 minutes on their way to an easy 6-3 win against Pittsburgh Sunday at Koskinen Stadium. The victory marks the Blue Devils' fourth win in their last five games and clinches them a berth in the ACC tournament, improving the team's NCAA tournament hopes in the process.
“We needed this win, we needed to enter into the NCAA tournament and that’s what we did,” senior Kaitlyn Kerr said. “The entire team got in and played great minutes. It was an overall great team win.”
The party started early for the Blue Devils (8-6-4, 5-4-3 in the ACC), as junior forward Kelly Cobb broke through the defense on a breakaway in the third minute and slotted the ball coolly into the left corner. Duke kept their foot on the gas from that point on, creating chance after chance. The second goal came less than 10 minutes later when senior Laura Weinberg received a cross from Cobb and shot it into the left corner. The goal earned Weinberg her 100th career point.
Another three goals in the span of five minutes—two from Kerr and another from Cobb—put the game out of reach. Freshman Malinda Allen added the sixth goal just before the half, storming through the midfield and putting a powerful shot past the Panther keeper for the first goal of her collegiate career.
The first half was easily Duke’s most impressive half of the season, as the team's six goals against Pittsburgh (4-13-1, 0-12-0) were scored off an astounding 24 shots. Cobb and Kerr were the key playmakers for the Blue Devils, creating and finishing in front of goal.
“I thought they both were great,” head coach Robbie Church said. “Kaitlyn’s a very emotional young lady and the whole Senior Day was very emotional to her so I didn’t know exactly how she was going to react, but then five minutes into the match you could see how she reacted and she did some great things. Kelly was great. It was great to see her get that first goal. It was great for us moving forward since we’re going to need Kaitlyn and Kelly and the rest of [the team] as we go forward.”
Pittsburgh came out stronger in the second half, thwarting Duke’s offensive attempts and creating a few chances for themselves. The Panthers got on the board with 10 minutes left on an own goal where Blue Devil freshmen Lizzy Raben had a miscommunication with goalkeeper Ali Kershner and headed the ball into her own net. Pitt added two more goals in the last six minutes, but it was too little, too late and Duke hung on for an easy victory.
It was an emotional day for the Blue Devils, as Duke honored its eight seniors with a pregame ceremony. Kerr also sang the National Anthem in front of full crowd at Koskinen Stadium. This group represents the most successful group of seniors under Church in terms of wins, and led Duke to the national championship game in 2011.
“What a powerful senior group,” Cobb said. “Not only are they amazing players, but they’re amazing people on and off the field. They’re leaders in the community and on the pitch. We’ll miss them a lot and I can’t even say enough about each and every one of them.”
Duke faces its final test of the regular season next week against North Carolina, and a win against the Tar Heels would assure them a stronger seed in the ACC tournament.
“We enjoy going over to Carolina, they’re the bar of woman’s college soccer,” Church said. “You want to be the best you’ve got to play the best. We’ll go over there and play hard. We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then to figure out exactly how we’re going to play. It’s going to be a great challenge. “