They had to wait a little longer than expected to get started, but once they did, the Blue Devils wasted no time in jumping on the scoreboard.
A goal by freshman Kayla McCoy in the eighth minute was all the offense No. 18 Duke needed Friday as the Blue Devils defeated No. 15 Southern California 1-0 in the second game of the Duke Nike Classic at Koskinen Stadium.
Friday's scheduled 7:30 p.m. start time came and went as the Blue Devils and Trojans were forced to wait around for the conclusion of the evening's first contest—a 1-1 draw between No. 4 North Carolina and California that went to double overtime. Once Duke took the field, though, it showed no signs of sluggishness out of the gates.
“I thought it was a great tactical game,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “I didn’t think we possessed the ball as well…[but] that’s a big-time win for us.”
Heading into the weekend, junior captain Christina Gibbons stressed the importance of getting off to a quick start against a pair of quality opponents, and the Blue Devils (4-0-1) certainly did so Friday. McCoy drew out Southern California goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme in the eighth minute while chasing down a pass from fellow freshman Taylor Racioppi.
With an open look on goal, the Lincolnwood, Ill., native capitalized, sending home her fourth goal of the season to give Duke the early 1-0 edge.
“That was a great ball [from Taylor], “ McCoy said. “She just looked up and saw me making the run. The keeper came out really far and I was able to pick up on her mistake and get around her."
Although Southern California (2-2) outshot the Blue Devils 11-7—including a 7-1 edge in shots on goal— Blue Devil goalkeeper E.J. Proctor continued her impressive defensive play between the pipes to keep the Trojans at bay. After earning ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors for a pair of shutouts last weekend against No. 6 Penn State and William & Mary, the sophomore recorded seven saves against the Trojans' in Duke's fifth straight shutout to begin the year.
The biggest stop of the night came with 10 minutes to play, when Proctor dove to block a shot from midfielder Morgan Andrews to keep the Blue Devils ahead, drawing an audible reaction from the crowd.
“What a save E.J. made—what an absolute save,” Church said. “[It was] probably one of the best saves I’ve ever seen on this field in 15 years.”
The five consecutive shutouts to begin the season puts Duke two games away from its longest shutout streak under Church—in 2004, Duke went seven games before allowing a goal. But despite coming away with the win, the Blue Devils struggled with ball handling offensively, turning the ball over on key possessions and allowing Southern California to control much of the first period. During halftime, Church said he stressed the need to make improvements on transitions and ratchet up the intensity.
Southern California entered the tournament having allowed only one goal, in their loss to defending national champion Florida State.
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The Blue Devils will return to Koskinen Stadium Sunday at 1:30 p.m. to play the Golden Bears (2-1-2), following an 11 a.m. matchup between the Tar Heels and the Trojans. California is led by Arielle Ship, who scored the team’s only goal in Friday’s draw with North Carolina. Ship has a team-high four goals on the season in as many games.
“We’ve got to get ourselves ready to play a really good Cal team that played very well against North Carolina,” Church said. “[California] really should have gotten the win against North Carolina."
Duke will focus on recovering between games and revisit needed adjustments before Sunday’s game. Church said he will focus on sharing the ball, creating spacing on the field and improved ball movement with his team. The Blue Devils got a preview of the Golden Bears while waiting for their own game to start and will go over a brief scouting report before Sunday's contest.
“We’re going to figure out what we need to do against [California],” McCoy said. “Ultimately, we’re going to play our game and hopefully they adjust to us.”