Freshman Spencer Wadsworth didn’t waste much time notching the first goal of his ACC career. Only 5:33 into Saturday night’s conference opener against Clemson, junior midfielder Danny Kramer collected the ball on the right side of the and sent a low cross to the near post, where Wadsworth poked it past the goalkeeper. The goal was all the cushion the stingy Duke defense needed to beat the Tigers (3-2, 0-1 in the ACC) and extend the Blue Devils’ (7-0, 1-0) undefeated and unscored-upon streak to seven games.
“We counterattacked really well,” said Wadsworth after the 1-0 win. “We got a cross and we did textbook runs, near post and far post, and I just finished it.”
Duke’s strength was once again its unyielding defense. Goalkeeper Justin Trowbridge only had to make one save en route to his fifth shutout of the season. Sophomore Danny Miller repeatedly dispossessed the flashy Clemson forwards, and prevented them from obtaining scoring opportunities.
“Every game we’re not taking anyone for granted,” Miller said. “Every time we’re saying that today we’re not going to let up any goals. Every time we’re saying that we’re going to battle together. We know every time we’re going to have to fight to earn that goose egg.”
Even though the Duke defense was strong throughout the game, the final 20 minutes seemed an eternity as Clemson kept the ball in the offensive zone almost the entire time. The crowd of almost 900 collectively exhaled in the last few seconds of the game when the Clemson free kick from outside the 18-yard box was deflected away.
“It’s just one game, but it’s a great start to the conference season,” said head coach John Rennie, whose team is in the midst of the longest shutout streak in program history.
The Blue Devils suffocated the Tigers in the first half, allowing only two shots and dominating the midfield. Clemson appeared frustrated at the end of the first frame as its forwards turned to individual runs, aggressively taking on two or three Duke defenders at once. The Tigers seemed more composed after halftime, but they still picked up three yellow cards in the final 45 minutes.
Saturday’s match was the first test of ACC competition for Duke’s highly touted freshman class, which passed with flying colors. Five freshmen started for the Blue Devils. In addition to Wadsworth’s goal, freshman Paul Dudley led Duke with four shots and Zachary Pope contributed to Duke’s defensive effort.
The Blue Devil freshmen almost struck again 16 minutes into the second half, when Wadsworth pulled a few nifty moves around the Tiger defense and crossed the ball to Dudley, who barely missed on the header.
“[ACC play] is physical—it’s a lot more physical than the other games,” Wadsworth said. “But, if we just play like we did tonight, we’ll do fine. I thought it was fun.”
Rennie, however, cautioned that competition only gets more intense.
“For a conference game that was not a real physical game. It was normal. It’s a battle. You’ve got to win the individual battles then you get the right to play. You’ll see a lot worse this year,” Rennie said.
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