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Duke falls in semis

In tense, back-and-forth matches, talent is often not the deciding factor. With plenty of talent on the field, will to win becomes critical.

No. 24 Duke (10-7-3, 4-3-1 in the ACC) brought plenty of talent to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. Friday night, but ultimately fell 2-1 to No. 13 Boston College (14-6-0, 4-4-0) in the ACC tournament semifinal.

In a tense playoff atmosphere, neither team was able to maintain momentum early in the match.

“Everyone’s nervous at the beginning of the game,” Kerr said. “Nobody could really get their foot on the ball and keep possession.”

Duke earned the game’s first corner kick in the fifteenth minute and provided a postseason surprise by sending senior defender Joe Pak—who had not taken a corner kick this season—forward to play the service. Until then, the team had scored just two goals on its 110 corners up to that point.

“The other two corner kick takers weren’t doing the job,” Kerr said, “so I had to find somebody else.”

Pak’s kick arced toward the near post, where Eagle goalkeeper Justin Luthy was unable to corral it. The ball bounced free in front of the net, where it was found by Duke freshman Nat Eggleston, who blasted his first touch off the bottom of the crossbar and into the back of the net to give his team an early one-goal lead.

After the goal, Boston College began to discover some offensive rhythm of its own. In the 24th minute, junior Colin Murphy received a pass from the right corner and used his first touch to play a perfect cross to the back post. Senior Abit Aburmad was lurking behind Belshaw, and he volleyed the service into the goal to even the score.

After the intermission, it was Duke’s turn to gain some momentum. Despite four shots and three corner kicks in the period, though, the Blue Devils could not come up with a go-ahead goal.

“They put fantastic pressure on us,” said forward Andrew Wenger, who was recently named ACC offensive player of the year.

It was also no help that the contest was Wenger’s first back at the center forward position after two games in the back, where he was moved to replace defender Sebastien Ibeagha. Ibeagha had received his second red card of the season Nov. 1, and had to sit the next two games as a result.

“Every time you change positions, it’s a little tricky,” Wenger said. “But I should have done better with it.”

Kerr also praised his team’s defensive play in the second half, but one lapse in was all Boston College needed. In the 65th minute, a Bekker corner kick found Medina-Mendez at the near post, and he converted. Despite opportunities to equalize, Duke could not find an answer for the aggressiveness of Eagle goalkeeper Luthy.

“I didn’t think that we were outplayed,” Pak said. “I don’t think we completely outplayed them. It was just a matter of will, and it just wasn’t there tonight.”

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