As the stands cleared and the noise from the screaming UNC-Greensboro players died down, six players wearing their Duke uniforms for the last time remained on the field. With tears in their eyes, they sat down where they had been when the final whistle blew, signalling the end of their Duke careers.
In a devastating first round loss in the NCAA Tournament, the fifth-seeded Blue Devils (14-6-1) fell to the Spartans 3-1, in overtime. The unranked UNC-G (19-5) team claimed its first ever win in Durham and the program's first NCAA tournament win.
Knowing that the women's Final Four is being played at the UNC-Greensboro campus this year provided the Spartans with that little extra boost that allowed them to outplay the Blue Devils.
"We worked so hard," senior tri-captain Lauren Cyran said. "They just out hustled us today. It just wasn't our day."
With 6:44 left in the second overtime, and score tied at 1-1, Amanda Remy was called for tripping UNC-G's Danica Baker in the penalty box. Spartans' junior Kati Kantenen, who leads the nation in scoring, knocked the penalty kick past Isis Dallis for her 23rd goal of the season and a 2-1 UNC-G lead.
With the possibility of their careers ending with the game, the senior Blue Devils tried their hardest to even the score. But Duke could not find an equalizer.
Kantenen sealed the 3-1 victory three minutes later scoring off a pass from Ali Lord.
"We wanted to give everything we could and we did," sweeper Cyran said. "We got into it in overtime, but it just wasn't enough."
In the first half, the ball bounced back and forth between both teams fairly frequently. Neither team was able to take control of the action for the first 35 minutes of the game. Finally, with 10:16 remaining in the first half, senior forward Andi Melde brought the ball up the left sideline and squeezed it through a UNC-G defender to a streaking Samantha Baggett. Baggett held the ball long enough to pull Spartan goalkeeper Paula Domitrovits out of position and then slip it by her.
The goal seemed to rejuvenate the Blue Devils and they were able to keep the pressure on the Spartans for the remainder of the half. UNC-G made one more run with five minutes left, but senior defender Raila Maisonlahti was unable to convert her scoring opportunity, allowing the Blue Devils to keep their 1-0 lead going into the second half.
A more inspired Greensboro team took the field in the second half. They beat Duke to a number of balls and were able to maintain a tremendous amount of pressure throughout the last 45 minutes of regulation time.
"Jack [Poland] is a great coach," assistant coach Carla Overbeck said. "They had a game plan and they came out and executed it very well."
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The Spartans finally evened the score with eleven minutes remaining in the second half. When the Blue Devils were unable to clear a cross into the box, junior Danica Baker took advantage of the opening and poked the ball into the back of the net.
With the game tied at 1-1, the UNC-G fans cheered a little louder and the Spartan players fought a little harder. UNC-G narrowly missed on several opportunities-the best coming with fourteen seconds left in regulation. But a tremendous leaping save by Dallis sent the game into overtime.
The Spartans managed 14 shots to Duke's nine in regulation. Going into overtime, though, Duke thought it could muster a goal and put the Spartans away for good.
"We were hoping to weather the storm of the second half," Overbeck said. "In overtime, we thought we could get control of the game."
Unfortunately for the Atlatnic Coast Conference Coach of the Year Bill Hempen, the Blue Devils, and the loyal Duke fans that stayed to see the end of the game, the worst was yet to come. Kantanen's goals stopped the Blue Devils dead in their tracks.
The loss was an unexpected and heartbreaking end for six senior Blue Devils who made significant contributions to this relatively young program. Tri-captain Melde finished her career as the second all-time leading scorer at Duke with 90 points. Cyran leaves the Duke women's soccer program having had 86 starts, the second-most in school history. Unfortunately, these accomplishments could not console any of the players as they made their way to the locker room for the last time.