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Offense explodes as Duke men's soccer moves to 4-0

<p>Sophomore Jeremy Ebobisse notched his team-leading fourth goal of the season in the 20th minute against the Greyhounds, helping Duke build a 3-0 lead in the first half.</p>

Sophomore Jeremy Ebobisse notched his team-leading fourth goal of the season in the 20th minute against the Greyhounds, helping Duke build a 3-0 lead in the first half.

For the first time in six seasons, the Blue Devils have won their first four games.

Duke posted a 5-1 win against Loyola Tuesday night at Koskinen Stadium to stay perfect on the year. The Blue Devils went up midway through the first half with a goal by red-hot sophomore Jeremy Ebobisse and kept piling on the goals from there, scoring two more times before the first period closed. Duke's five goals came from five different players, four of whom notched their first tally of the year Tuesday.

“We did a great job starting the game and getting on top, passing the ball, making our runs and creating a lot of havoc in their final third,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “It’s great to have guys come on the field and get their first goals of the season. It’s nice when you have the depth like that because it gives us options going up front, so you can’t just shut one guy down and think that we’re not going to score, because we have [other] weapons.”

Duke (4-0) dominated the contest from the opening whistle, but struggled initially to convert on any of its early opportunities. Senior Ryan Thompson managed to send a slow pass through traffic across the box and Ebobisse stuck a leg out from the back post to knock the ball in and put up the first goal of the game in the 20th minute. The Bethesda, Md., native leads the Blue Devils with four goals on the season after tallying just two goals in his entire freshman campaign.

Duke would not stop there, though. In the 34th minute, freshman Ciaran McKenna picked off a cleared ball and released a rocket from 30 yards out that found the lower right corner of the net, marking his first goal as a Blue Devil. Just two minutes later, sophomore Cameron Moseley netted his first goal of the season off of a cross from graduate transfer Jared Rist.

Duke finished the half with 14 shots—seven of which were on goal—and the defensive line held strong, limiting the Greyhounds (0-3-1) to just one shot in the opening period.

“I’ve been telling the boys that I’m capable of scoring from that far out, but I don’t think they believed me,” McKenna said. “It was good to finally show them that I’m not all talk. I came close on Saturday night with a big strike, so it was really good to see that shot hit the back of the net.”

The Blue Devils came out with just as much of an attacking mentality in the second half. Just four minutes into the period, sophomore Macario Hing-Glover posted his first goal of the season after ripping a shot past Loyola goalkeeper Matt Sanchez following a combination between Ebobisse and sophomore Brian White.

During a momentary lapse for Duke’s otherwise stout defense, Brennan Goldsmith converted on a cross deep in the box in the 62nd minute for the Greyhounds' first goal of the season. The Blue Devils quickly retaliated with a goal from White, though, marking his first goal of the season and Duke’s fifth of the night.

“We got a little sloppy on their goal,” Kerr said. “Relatively [speaking], we did a great job defensively. [Defense] is a mentality, and we’ve improved our mentality greatly and we’ve matured. We’re gaining momentum and we’re gaining confidence. We feel that we can be in any game against any team in the country.”

The Blue Devils had been experiencing some difficulty converting on offensive opportunities during their first couple of matches, but with four of Tuesday’s goals coming from new scorers, Duke’s offensive woes seem to be in the rearview mirror.

Overall, the Blue Devils maintained the defensive dominance they have displayed thus far in the season. Duke allowed no shots on goal up until Goldsmith's, and held fast thereafter—allowing just seven total shots and four corner kicks during the entire contest.

“I’m very pleased with the 3-0 lead early in the game,” Kerr said. “It took a little pressure off us and allowed us to really get confident. We’ve made these kind of games difficult in the past, so it was nice to be on top from the beginning of the game.”

Tuesday’s match was a victory for the Blue Devils on both sides of the field. Duke finished the game with 22 shots—10 of which were on target—and the back line managed to limit the Greyhounds to just one other shot on goal.

The Blue Devils seemed to have found a rhythm just in time for the start of conference play but will need to maintain that near-perfect play if they wants to remain undefeated. Duke will take on reigning national champion No. 5 Virginia Friday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. Duke will then move on to host UNC Wilmington Tuesday before hitting the road to challenge No. 9 Clemson Sept. 18.

“We just have to be sharp,” Kerr said. “We’re playing well. We just have to be on song in the game against UVA and it won’t be easy, obviously. We’re excited about the opportunity to play the defending national champions.”

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