The dark days are over.
The Blue Devils—who had gone without a win in their last six contests—finally ended their four-week slide with a 3-2 double-overtime win against No. 23 Hofstra at Koskinen Stadium. Sophomore Brian White supplied the heroics in Monday’s contest, scoring the go-ahead goal with less than three minutes remaining in the second overtime period to secure the Duke win.
For most of the game, things were looking bleak for the Blue Devils, as they fell down 2-0 early in the second half. But senior Zach Mathers was able to get Duke on the board with a free-kick goal in the 69th minute, and junior Brody Huitema tied the game with less than five minutes remaining in regulation to force overtime.
“This could be a season-changing win for us,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “Going 2-0 down to come back and get the win in overtime against a really good team—a high RPI team—is huge for us. Now we can build on this performance, but we take a lot of confidence from this.”
The Blue Devils (5-4-2) started off the match strong, keeping the ball in their own offensive third for virtually all of the first 15 minutes of play. Duke put up three unanswered shots and two corner kicks before the Pride (8-3-0) asserted themselves on the attack with two consecutive shots of their own.
Perhaps the Blue Devils’ most promising chance to take an early lead came in the 15th minute. Duke played keep-away just outside Hofstra’s 18-yard box, waiting for the best opportunity to pursue the goal. The Blue Devils caught Pride goalkeeper Patric Pray off guard when they found White alone on the weak side of the box. The Flemington, N.J., native released a hard shot that ricocheted off of the far post and Mathers followed it up with a shot of his own, but Pray handled it with ease to keep Duke off the board.
“That shot [from the 15th minute] was definitely running through my mind when I got the ball [for the overtime goal],” White said. “I don’t really think I could have done that twice even if I wanted to.”
After halftime, the Blue Devils returned to the field as a team with much less intensity than the one that had left just minutes before. Hofstra had a number of opportunities in the first few minutes of the second half, but finally broke through in the 55th minute after the Pride worked up the field in a quick counterattack. Hofstra’s Joseph Holland was one-on-one with Duke keeper Mitchell Kupstas—making his first start of the season in place of graduate student Wilson Fisher—and rattled off a hard shot that Kupstas saved with an outstretched foot, but sophomore Danny Elliott was able to scoop up the rebound and blast the ball past Kupstas for the first score of the match.
Less than ten minutes later, the Pride struck again in a similar fashion. Holland brought the ball up on the counterattack and tried to slip one past Kupstas, but the graduate transfer was once again able to deflect the shot. Hofstra senior Marius Flateboe converted on the rebound, but this time there seemed to be some misdirection between Kupstas and defender Markus Fjørtoft.
“To give up a second goal so quickly was disappointing and a little bit of slack defending,” Kerr said. “Our guys knew that they were playing well, so the frustration set in. We kept playing soccer which was the important thing, and we didn’t just launch balls up front—we kept creating opportunities.”
It looked as though the Blue Devils would remain winless through seven straight contests after that, but Mathers was able to rally his team late in the contest. In the 68th minute, a Pride handball gave Duke a free kick just outside of the 18-yard box. The Keller, Texas, native fired a rocket past Pray to the far corner of the net to put the Blue Devils on the board.
From then on, Duke played with a level of intensity it had not exhibited since well before its winless streak began. The Blue Devils kept the ball in Hofstra’s half for the rest of the contest. After a myriad of near-goals, sophomore Jeremy Ebobisse found Huitema in front of an open goal to net the equalizer with less than five minutes left in regulation.
“I’m really happy with our performance because we fought back hard,” Kerr said. “We got the one goal back and then had to keep working to get the second goal—and that’s against a really good team.”
Both teams had chances to score in the first ten-minute overtime period, but neither side was able to convert. Shortly after the second overtime period began, a struggle broke out between many of the players from both sides, resulting in yellow cards to Mathers and the Pride’s Nino Alfonso. This heightened tensions for the final minutes of play, as two more fouls were committed in the ten-minute stretch.
Although Hofstra rattled off two shots in the final overtime period, Duke dominated both in terms of possession and opportunities. The Blue Devils finally broke through when Mathers found White wide open in front of the goal in the 106th minute. White effortlessly finished the ball to the back post to cap off Duke’s first win since Sept. 8.
“This brings our confidence up a lot,” White said. “We had a six-game winless streak and we did really well to fight back. We’re going to have a lot of confidence going over to Notre Dame this weekend.”
This monumental Blue Devil victory could not have been more timely. Monday night’s win—which once again gave Duke a winning record—arguably could save its season. The Blue Devils will take to the road once again this Saturday to challenge No. 7 Notre Dame before returning home for a much-needed three-game homestand. Duke will host Holy Cross Oct. 13, N.C. State Oct. 16 and Elon Oct. 20.
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