In overtime, junior Nicole Dudek sent a slow-rolling shot between the legs of Wake Forest goalie Kristina Gagliardi. The ball deflected off Gagliardi’s inside pad and trickled towards the goal line.
“I was like, ‘Go in! Go in!’” Dudek said.
Her prayer was answered, and Duke (5-1, 1-0 in the ACC) earned a 4-3 win over last year’s national champion Wake Forest (6-1, 0-1) at Kentner Stadium in Winston-Salem. The loss for the Demon Deacons was only their second in 48 games; both defeats came at the hands of the Blue Devils.
Even though the game-winning goal was not off a beautiful, thundering shot, Duke head coach Beth Bozman said it was not an easy save.
“[The shot by Dudek] was an off-paced ball,” Bozman said. “Sometimes those are the most dangerous for a keeper because they are coming out at one speed, so it’s kind of like a changeup in baseball.”
The contest was an up-and-down nail-biter. According to the stat sheet, there were 50 shots registered on goal for the game. Although Bozman insisted that there were closer to 30 shots on goal, both teams had their fair share of harrowing moments.
“When one team made one mistake, it was a goal,” Bozman said. “It was one of those dangerous games for either team. They made some adjustments in the second half, because we did have a lot of scoring opportunities in the first half, but we were able to control the battle a little bit.”
The game started with a bang. Two minutes in, Wake Forest mounted an attack that ended when freshman standout Tamar Meijer chipped the ball past Blue Devil keeper Christy Morgan to open the scoring.
In the 28th minute, Duke responded with a goal from speedy senior Chrissie Murphy. After a battle for possession in the midfield, the Blue Devils recovered the ball and entered the Demon Deacons’ circle. Murphy capitalized in front of the net and evened the score at 1-1. But six minutes before halftime, Wake Forest again took the lead on a perfectly executed penalty corner, and Duke went into the locker room down 2-1.
The seesaw continued rocking when both teams took the field during the second half. Senior midfielder Johanna Bischof picked up a loose ball on top of the circle seven minutes into the period and fired a shot on goal. The ball found the back of the net after a Dudek screen on Gagliardi.
But with 21 minutes left in regulation, the Blue Devils again found themselves staring at a one goal deficit. Kristi Harshman sparked a counter-attack and found Haley Scott for Wake Forest’s third goal of the game.
When it appeared that Duke would have to settle for a loss to its intra-state nemesis, sophomore Amy Stopford gave Duke new life. The sophomore midfielder fired home the tying goal with 11 minutes left.
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“There was a loose ball at the top of the circle, and I just shot it far post,” Stopford said. “It was such a great goal, I really can’t exactly remember all of it, I was in the moment.”
The Stopford goal sent the contest into overtime, when Dudek’s shot squibbed past Gagliardi. The win for Duke helped wash away memories of the team’s poor performance in an early-season loss to Michigan State.
“Every game we have been getting better,” Bozman said. “Certainly, the Michigan State game, that debacle was something that we really took to heart and learned from and we’ve been gradually tweaking little things all along.”
For seniors like Bischof, this game was as big as any other regular season win. Duke only has four conference games before the ACC tournament, so each ACC match is very important.
“In the past we haven’t won many big ACC season games,” Bischof said. “This one was huge in terms of beating Wake, and in terms of standings for the ACC tournament.”
A day after the win, the Blue Devils took on Kent State (2-3) at home. The Golden Flashes were completely overmatched, and Duke cruised to a comfortable 10-0 victory.
Duke’s play over the weekend showed a complete change in Duke’s mindset and attitude. Coming into Saturday’s match, the Blue Devils were a team struggling to cope with lofty expectations for the season. After defeating last year’s national champion, there is no question the team gained a large boost of confidence.
“There has been a lot of pressure on this team, they weren’t used to achieving the things they did last year, so there has got to be some pressure they don’t even talk about,” Bozman said. “I think [Saturday] they realized that they were going to be all right and were going to be good.”