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Duke men's soccer can't capitalize on chances in loss to Holy Cross

<p>Sophomore Jeremy Ebobisse and the Blue Devils generated plenty of scoring chances Tuesday but were unable to break through in a 1-0 loss to Holy Cross.</p>

Sophomore Jeremy Ebobisse and the Blue Devils generated plenty of scoring chances Tuesday but were unable to break through in a 1-0 loss to Holy Cross.

The Blue Devils manufactured several chances to take the lead Tuesday night but still found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard for the second time in four days—and the sixth time in their last eight matches.

Despite outshooting Holy Cross 19-5—with 12 attempts coming in the second half—Duke fell to the Crusaders 1-0 at Koskinen Stadium. With only five matchups before the end of the season for the Blue Devils, the upset against Holy Cross poses a serious threat to their postseason aspirations.

Sophomore forward Yuji Callahan netted the lone goal of the game in the 67th minute. Holy Cross forward Joey DeVivo started a counter-attack in midfield and found Callahan, who scored his third goal this season with a low shot from 25 yards out that Duke goalkeeper Mitch Kupstas could not turn away.

“We had a lot of good approach and built up play and we created enough chances to win three or four games,” Duke head coach John Kerr said. “But when you don’t take your chances and you don’t put teams away, you leave yourself open to a counter-attack goal. Holy Cross capitalized on one of the two opportunities they had in the second half and scored the goal and fought for their lives the rest of the way.”

Holy Cross (4-4-4) dominated ball control in the first 20 minutes and had an early opportunity to break the deadlock. Defender Eddie Gibbons found a bouncing ball outside the box in the seventh minute and fired a 25-yard shot that missed the target.

Duke (5-6-2) tried to grab the lead by putting deep crosses inside the box but the Crusaders snuffed out the passes from graduate student Jared Rist and sophomores Brian White and Macario Hing-Glover.

In the 22nd minute, senior midfielder Zach Mathers—who led the Blue Devils’ offense with six shots—took a free kick from the left side of the box but his attempt from 20 yards out missed the target by a few inches. Sophomore Noah Snyder racked up a long-range shot with three minutes to play before intermission, but it went wide. The two squads headed to the locker room with no change on the scoreboard.

“When you’re going through a game that you’re dominating and you’re still not finishing your chances, it’s really hard to make sure you concentrate the whole time,” Kerr said. “To do that is part of our challenges when we are playing teams that we should be beating.”

Duke had the best opportunities to clinch the first goal of the evening in the beginning of the second half but was later punished for not capitalizing.

In the 51st minute, Mathers powered a 23-yard shot that Wright controlled without trouble. Four minutes later, graduate student Tyler Hilliard connected on a header from the penalty spot that went wide right.

“We’re creating the chances. That’s all you can ask for, but we need to start finishing them,” junior forward Brody Huitema said. “This is a big loss. What we really need to do in the next two days of training is to forget this loss completely. It doesn’t matter—it’s done now.”

In a three-minute span, Huitema and sophomore Jeremy Ebobisse could have put Duke ahead 1-0 but the Crusader goalkeeper and the post prevented the would-be goals. In the 60th minute, Huitema connected on a low cross from defender Carter Manley with a first-touch shot but Wright pulled off a save with his legs. Just minutes later, Ebobisse dribbled past a defender and fired from 12 yards out but his shot hit the post and the ball was then turned away by a Holy Cross defender.

After the Crusaders’ goal, Holy Cross defended the lead with eight or nine players in its defensive third of the pitch as the Blue Devils tried to find the equalizer, but headers from Huitema and Ebobisse missed the target and Wright dealt with the shots from Manley and Hing-Glover.

Duke had its two last chances in the final five minutes but Mathers sent a 20-yard free kick above the bar and Ebobisse did not manage to put a shot on frame from four yards out with an open net.

“We present good opportunities and [what we’re missing is] the last bit of confidence just to finish off the play,” Kerr said. “I can’t tell you how many guys were just in front of the goal with nobody to beat but the goalkeeper and they rushed the shot and panicked. That [happens] when a team is not confident.”

The Blue Devils will look to capture their first ACC victory Friday evening when they battle No. 18 N.C. State at Koskinen Stadium.

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