Traveling to a hostile environment for the first time this season, sophomore goalkeeper E.J. Proctor saved the evening for the Blue Devils on a night when there was not much to be had on the offensive end of the pitch.
Thanks to Proctor’s career-high 11 saves, No. 21 Duke held on for a 0-0 draw in overtime against No. 6 Penn State Friday night at Jeffrey Field in University Park, Pa. Despite outshooting the Blue Devils 21-14, the Nittany Lions were not able to get a ball past Proctor in 110 minutes of play. In three games as a starter this year, the Wilson, N.C., native has yet to allow a goal.
“It was one of the toughest places that we have been in my 15 years at Duke,” head coach Robbie Church told GoDuke.com. “We have a young squad. It was our first time in this type of environment. This is a win-win game for everybody. We are going to grow and get better from this game. I thought at times we played really, really well.”
Even though Penn State (2-0-1) had the best opportunities to break the deadlock and outshot the visitors 10-3 in the first half, Duke (2-0-1) managed to keep a clean sheet thanks to its stalwart defense and the Nittany Lions’ lack of accuracy. Despite being on the offensive early and attempting six of the first seven shots of the game, Penn State could not cash in.
Forward Mallory Weber, who entered the game with two scores and one assist, could have put the home team ahead in the 18th minute. The Penn State senior received a through ball inside the box, dribbled by a defender and fired, but her shot hit Proctor’s right post. Freshman forward Charlotte Williams recovered the bouncing ball, but her rebound attempt went wide left.
Williams had another scoring opportunity nine minutes later, as she connected on a header 20 yards away from the goal, but a Duke defender turned it away before it crossed the line.
“In the first half, they were attacking us with a lot of long balls after transition so we just had to drop quicker and try not to make errors,” Proctor told GoDuke.com. “In the second half, we definitely handled that better and we got some more opportunities. We didn’t test their goalkeeper as much as we liked but overall we hold our own.”
Freshman forward Taylor Racioppi, who poured in three goals at the UNC Nike Classic last weekend, led Duke’s attack in the first 45 minutes with two shots.
“We didn’t play as well as we’re capable of playing [in the first period] but I thought we did in the second half,” Church told GoDuke.com. “We started connecting passes, we started running at them, creating opportunities. We had better movement in the second half and played the ball quicker.”
Duke outshot Penn State 9-5 in the second half making things more interesting for the 4,207 spectators of the game. Junior forward Toni Payne had the first of two Blue Devil goal attempts in the first two minutes of the closing period. Racioppi had another chance that was blocked by the Nittany Lions’ defense.
With 12 minutes left to play in regulation, freshman attacker Kayla McCoy had the best opportunity of the night to break the scoreless draw for the Blue Devils. The Lincolnwood, Ill., native received an inviting cross from junior captain Christina Gibbons, but her right-footed shot sailed over the crossbar.
After the regular 90 minutes had elapsed with no score, the Blue Devils and Nittany Lions played two additional 10-minute periods, but the defensive struggle continued. In the extra 20 minutes, Penn State outshot Duke 6-2, but Williams and Weber were unable to net a strike as Blue Devil defenders snuffed out their shots. Proctor added two more saves during overtime to the nine she had registered in the first 90 minutes.
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“It is a fair result,” Church said. “Every time we step on the field we are looking for a win. We get to start recovery right now and then head back and then get ready for a very good William & Mary team.”
The Blue Devils return to action Sunday at 6 p.m., when they will battle the Tribe at Koskinen Stadium in their home opener.