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Proctor's big saves help Duke women's soccer advance to Final Four on penalty kicks

<p>Sophomore goalkeeper E.J. Proctor made two critical saves during penalty kicks Friday night to send the Blue Devils to the College Cup.</p>

Sophomore goalkeeper E.J. Proctor made two critical saves during penalty kicks Friday night to send the Blue Devils to the College Cup.

Duke head coach Robbie Church said that the Elite Eight contest against Stanford was going to be a duel of goalkeepers. And when the Blue Devil sophomore E.J. Proctor faced Cardinal keeper Jane Campbell in the final round of penalty kicks Friday evening, she made sure to win that duel for Church and her teammates.

Thanks to a standout performance from Proctor, third-seeded Duke beat top-seeded Stanford 3-2 in a penalty shutout at Laird Q. Cagan Stadium in Stanford, Calif. The Blue Devils and the Cardinal were tied 1-1 after 110 minutes of action and headed to the penalty spot in order to decide who was going to earn a trip to the Final Four. Three Blue Devils—junior captain Christina Gibbons, freshman Chelsea Burns and sophomore Casey Martinez—converted their strikes and Proctor blocked the shots from midfielder Andi Sullivan and Campbell to propel Duke to its second College Cup semifinal in five years.

“First, a big congratulations to a phenomenal program and team that Stanford has. [It is] obviously well coached and one of the top programs in the country,” Church told “We stayed organized the whole time. We were hard to break down. We worked hard defensively to get back. I’m just very proud of our team and how [far] we have come during the season.”

The battle between the goalkeepers started even before the opening whistle. Proctor and Campbell entered Friday’s match with only 0.61 and 0.53 goals against respectively—the 14th and seventh-best marks in the nation—and both had posted 10 shutouts this season. Proctor ended the game with seven saves in her pocket and Campbell registered five.

In regulation time, Stanford (19-2-2) outshot Church’s squad 17-5 but it was the Duke team that took the early lead.

The Blue Devils (13-5-5) broke the scoreless draw in the 14th minute, when Martinez put an inviting cross inside the 18-yard area from the right side of the pitch. Campbell and the Cardinal defense could not turn away the pass and the bouncing ball found junior attacker Toni Payne, who tapped it into an open net from five yards out for her third goal of the year.

Twenty-five minutes later, Stanford midfielder Michelle Xiao equalized the contest with a low shot from 16 yards out that Proctor could not stop.

“Scoring a goal early is always nice but at the same time it kind of puts more pressure to defend the rest of the game,” Proctor told “But throughout the season, the biggest thing is that we have improved every game from our technical abilities to just being able to fight to the end of the game. I think that’s why we came out with this [victory].”

In the second half, the Cardinal manufactured nine shot attempts but Proctor posted four of her seven saves of the evening to keep the score even.

The Blue Devils could have netted the go-ahead goal in regulation time but freshman Kayla McCoy missed the target when trying to finish a cross from Gibbons from inside the box.

The overtime action was more of the same, as the Cardinal outshot the Blue Devils 5-3 but Duke had the best opportunity to notch a winning goal.

With three minutes to play in the first overtime period, sophomore midfielder Ashton Miller powered a shot that Campbell controlled off the goal line. Although it seemed that the ball had crossed the line completely, the referee deemed it did not.

Campbell stopped a penalty kick from junior defender Rebecca Quinn, but Proctor’s two monster saves and the three Blue Devil goals paid Stanford back for Duke’s 1-0 loss against the Cardinal in the 2011 NCAA tournament final.

After defending national champion Florida State blitzed Texas A&M 5-0 in one of the other four NCAA-tournament quarterfinals, the Blue Devils will battle the Seminoles Friday in Cary, N.C., looking to capture a spot in the national championship game. Duke and Florida State registered a two-overtime scoreless tie Sept. 20 at Koskinen Stadium in the teams’ ACC opener.

“It is such an incredible experience to get to the Final Four, especially [after] not making [it to] the tournament last year,” Proctor told “It’s just such a cool feeling, even more so since it’s in Cary, only 20 minutes away from campus. That’s so exciting that we get to do it near home.”


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