Duke got off on the right foot to start its season—specifically, the right foot of Imani Dorsey.
The sophomore finished a second-half strike from inside the box for Duke’s first goal of the year as the Blue Devils defeated No. 22 Clemson 1-0 in their one and only exhibition contest Saturday at Koskinen Stadium.
After being outshot 5-4 in the first period, Duke strung together 10 shot attempts in the second half and found the back of the net in the 72nd minute after Dorsey finished an inviting cross from sophomore defender Morgan Reid.
“We played fairly well in the first half,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “But once we won the ball in midfield, we played too many early balls instead of winning it, dribbling at midfield and then playing balls in. But after halftime, we adjusted really well. We made quicker decisions and we attacked them with numbers in the second half.”
Six freshmen made their first-ever appearance wearing a Blue Devil jersey Saturday, including midfielder Taylor Racioppi. The Ocean Township, N.J., native—who earned All-Freshman Team honors from TopDrawerSoccer.com last week—led Duke’s attack with four shots and could have broken the scoreless draw in the 39th minute when she had a clear sight on goal from inside the box, but her shot toward the far post went too wide.
With the first half about to expire, Racioppi created another chance from outside the box, but Clemson goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan pulled off an easy save.
After a knee injury kept her out of the lineup for the past two seasons, redshirt junior midfielder Cassie Pecht returned to the field and played 57 minutes. The 2012 National Freshman of the Year combined with junior left defender and team captain Christina Gibbons to look for openings on the attack.
“[Pecht and Racioppi offer] tackling mentality to the team,” Church said. “They are very athletic and very good with the ball. They are going to put other teams on their heels—they are very dynamic out on the field.”
Although the Tigers had greater ball possession than the Blue Devils during the first 45 minutes, they were unable to turn their looks into a score against Duke goalkeeper E.J. Proctor. Auditioning to replace the departed Meghan Thomas and Ali Kershner, the sophomore blocked a header and a shot from inside the box before being replaced by redshirt freshman Abby Pyne in the second half.
After returning from the locker room, Clemson continued dominating ball possession and had two great opportunities to break the scoreless draw. In the 47th minute, midfielder Tina Shakes fired from outside the box but Proctor turned away the shot. Two minutes later, Shakes sent in another shot that met the same fate.
On the other end of the pitch, Duke started finding openings in the Tiger’s solid defense, generating some threatening looks thanks to the speed of junior midfielder Toni Payne.
In the 59th minute, Payne put a shot on frame but Sheridan managed to control the ball. Two minutes later, Racioppi left a ball for Payne and it seemed as though the Birmingham, Ala., native was going to notch the first goal of the evening, but her shot toward the left post went too wide.
After Dorsey rolled the ball home to give Duke the 1-0 lead, Payne had two more chances within the next 10 minutes to add to the Blue Devils’ advantage, but Sheridan dealt with both attempts. More scoring was not needed, though, as Pyne and the rest of the defense finished off the shutout.
“This team has incredible resiliency,” Racioppi said. “Even if it’s not going our way, we’re not going to give up and that’s an awesome quality for this team to have. Once we got the goal, the first goal of the season against a great ACC opponent, we knew that was the turning point for us.”
The Blue Devils return to action Friday at 5 p.m., when they kick off the regular season against Fresno State in the first game of the UNC Nike Classic in Chapel Hill.
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