After Saturday's 5-0 blowout of San Diego, it appeared as though seventh-ranked Duke had found the missing link in its offensive attack.
But in the Blue Devils' ACC opener against Virginia Tech Thursday night, the scoring troubles that characterized the beginning of the team's season returned.
Duke (7-0-1, 1-0 in the ACC) did not find the net for the first time until the 56th minute despite overwhelming the Hokies (4-4-1, 0-1) throughout the first half. The Blue Devils then added a goal with less than two minutes to play to push the final score to 2-0.
"I was never fully relieved until the second goal went in and the clock was running out," head coach Robbie Church said.
The Blue Devils kept Church pacing on the sidelines for 88 minutes as cross after cross sailed in front of the Virginia Tech goal and no one came to finish. In the first half alone, the Duke attack earned six corner kicks but failed to connect on any of them.
In the twentieth minute, Forward Christie McDonald threatened to break the scoreless tie. After a series of headers inside the Hokies' 18-yard box, the freshman redirected the ball toward the goal with a header of her own, but goalkeeper Mallory Soldner grabbed the shot before it could reach the net.
Minutes later, Duke defender Rachel-Rose Cohen made her way down the right side of the field into Virginia Tech territory. She held up just outside the Hokie 18-yard box and dropped the ball to fellow junior Lauren Tippets who moved past her defender and launched a shot at the near post. Soldner again positioned herself to make the save.
Before the end of the half, the Hokies narrowly missed connecting on a free kick-their only real scoring opportunity in the game. They finished with only three shots while Duke amassed 22.
"As much as it's frustrating, it's also motivating because every time you come closer, it makes you that much more hungry to put that next one in," Blue Devil forward Sarah McCabe said of failing to capitalize on any opportunities in the first half.
McCabe found herself in position to break the 0-0 tie 10 minutes into the second half. After Duke worked the ball through the midfield, Rebecca Moros sent a pass over a Virginia Tech defender to Tippets on the right side of the Hokies' 18-yard box. Tippets then struck a cross to McCabe, who stretched her foot out and pushed the ball into the back of the net for the 1-0 lead.
The Virginia Tech defense kept the score close for the next 23 minutes behind the play of Soldner who recorded 11 saves, including a number of stops in one-on-one pressure situations.
With 1:31 remaining in the contest, McDonald finally found her way by Soldner on a breakaway opportunity. Although Soldner stopped McDonald's initial shot, the forward scored on the rebound with a spinning left-footed volley, bringing the score to 2-0.
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Duke's next game will be at home Sunday when it will play its second ACC game of the season against 13th-ranked Virginia (6-2-1). The game is set to start at 2 p.m at Koskinen Stadium.
The Blue Devils upset the third-seeded Cavaliers in the second round of last year's NCAA Tournament. McCabe, and seniors Kate Seibert and Carolyn Riggs each netted a goal in the 3-0 shutout.