Duke had yet to drop a road game this season, handling the tough environment to earn a tie at then-No. 6 Penn State and battling the elements Friday night to secure a victory at Samford. But Sunday was a different story.
Despite posting a 13-8 shot advantage, the Blue Devils suffered their second loss of the season at Louisiana State. Following a win in double overtime Friday against the Bulldogs, the Blue Devils made the trip to Baton Rouge, La., which ended in the frustration of a 1-0 defeat.
“I don’t think we played as well as we’re capable of playing,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “[The weekend was a] tough trip, no question about it, coming across three states...but in the game of soccer you have to be able to finish your opportunities. We had enough to win this game.”
No. 21 Duke (5-2-1) had three shots in the first period, which tied the squad’s season low, a number Church attributed to his team not clicking offensively. Senior Kara Wilson—who scored her first career goal in the win Friday—recorded the first shot of the game in the third minute. Teammates Taylor Racioppi and Toni Payne also got looks early in the game, but the Blue Devils stalled late in the first half and failed to get a shot off in the last 21 minutes of the period.
The Duke offense reclaimed control of the game early in the second half, with the Blue Devils taking six straight attempts at the net, including three in a row by Payne. But the team was unable to capitalize and committed a costly mistake in the 73rd minute. Tiger forward Jorian Baucom was tripped in the box and Duke was assessed a penalty. Baucom drained the ensuing penalty kick to give Louisiana State the lead—and ultimately the victory—with the only goal scored in the game.
“We totally dominated the second half,” Church said. “They had one ball that was played in our box and it was a questionable call the ref made. But unfortunately, we have to blame ourselves a little bit because of that, because we should have scored two or three goals and been up [at that point].”
Church’s squad continued to fight for the remaining 17 minutes of play, placing three more shots to the Tigers’ one. In the 78th minute, junior captain Christina Gibbons drained a goal that was not awarded to the Blue Devils due to an offsides penalty. Duke was assessed a yellow card soon afterwards.
A shot by junior defender Lizzy Raben went high in the 82nd minute and Louisiana State’s Debbie Hahn responded minutes later with a shot of her own—saved by Duke goalkeeper E.J. Proctor. Redshirt sophomore midfielder Cassie Pecht got her first and only look on the goal with less than three minutes to play, but sent it wide. With just more than a minute left, Malinda Allen had a chance to tie the game and send Duke back to overtime. But Louisiana State goalkeeper Catalina Rubiano grabbed the clutch save—her fifth of the afternoon—to seal the victory for the Tigers.
A loss to the unranked Tigers (5-1-2), who received just one vote in last week’s coaches poll, may be enough to bump the Blue Devils out of the top 25.
“It’s very disappointing right now, but hopefully we learn from it and we go forward,” Church said. “We as coaches have to figure out how we’re going to help these girls score some goals. They have to take responsibility in being confident in their ability and believing in themselves, too. We have a lot of work to do.”
Duke will return home to Koskinen Stadium Thursday at 7 p.m. to host Appalachian State—the squad’s last regular season nonconference foe—before beginning a rigorous 10-game ACC schedule. First up for the Blue Devils will be the defending national champion No. 3 Florida State, which visits Durham Sunday.
“Every game for us is big,” Church said. We’ll use the game [against Appalachian State] just like we’ve used every game—try to play as well as we can, try to score some goals and try to win games.”