Duke returned home yesterday after a four-day trip to Alabama, where they competed in the Auburn Tournament, splitting two contests. After a disappointing 1-0 loss to Auburn on Friday night, they rebounded to defeat Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon, 1-0.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this weekend’s performance is the team’s apparent loss of momentum after a surprising 3-1 upset victory over No. 1 Notre Dame merely five days before. Many believed the No.5 Blue Devils (5-1)to be one of the best teams in the country, but their apparent struggle against two unranked opponents have many second-guessing themselves.
Indeed, many Duke fans were upset with the team’s performance this weekend. Head coach Robbie Church, however, did not echo these same frustrations. He was quick to assert the inherent difference between the team’s victory against Notre Dame in Chapel Hill to their disappointing performances in Alabama.
“We went from the hunter to the hunted,” Church said. “When we play against the No. 1 team in country so close to home, we become the hunters. But when Duke travels on road, we become the hunted. People circle their calendars. They throw everything at us. It’s a different game”
Friday’s game against Auburn pitted two defensive teams against one another. Even on a rainy day, almost two thousand Auburn fans came to root against Duke—roughly four times the attendance of the last home game at Koskinen Stadium. During the first half, both teams were at stalemate, unable to score.
Coming back from halftime, though, the Blue Devils let their level of play drop. They opened the second period with “fifteen bad minutes”—as Church describes it—allowing the Aggies to score the game-winning goal in the 61st minute of action. While the Blue Devils eventually regained their composure, they were never able to score the equalizer.
On Sunday, the team began with the same uninspired play that characterized their matchup two days before. So, they turned to a different strategy, changing things up dramatically. They dug down much deeper into the depth chart and got a few fresh faces on the field, utilizing several different formations.
Notably, Audrey Gibson and Katy Colas, two freshmen who have not traditionally seen extended action, logged 28 and 29 minutes, respectively.
“We battled, we fought, we made some substitutions, and we went deeper into the bench. We played some girls who haven’t played in a while. Then we started them again in the second half,” Church said. “We got some quality minutes for some girls that worked really hard in practice. Then we were able to come back with our more traditional and score.”
Perhaps the most encouraging performance of this weekend was that of Kelly Cobb, the standout freshman forward. Even amidst a game characterized by rugged defensive play and few chances to make plays in space, Cobb managed to score the game-winning goal against Ole Miss in the 76th minute of play. And her coach couldn’t have been more proud.
“Today wasn’t her top game, but she still found a way to get the ball in the net. That’s what goal scorers do,” Church said. “That’s what our program’s traditionally been lacking. We’re extremely grateful to have her.”
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.