Duke seemed poised to pick up its first home win ever against North Carolina—the Blue Devils had the better team, numerous one-on-one scoring chances and a boisterous home crowd, soaked underneath ferocious rain and 20 mile-per-hour winds.
But Duke simply could not find the back of the net.
The No. 7 Blue Devils tied the eighth-ranked Tar Heels 0-0 after 110 minutes at Koskinen Stadium in the second game of the Duke Nike Classic. After scoring only twice on 39 shots Sunday against Coastal Carolina, Duke hit the crossbar twice and the post once against its arch rival and outshot the Tar Heels 30-6, but never got on the scoreboard.
“The whole Duke staff should have retired because there was nothing fair about this game,” North Carolina head coach Anson Dorrance said.
The Blue Devils (3-1-1) began the game in a 4-2-3-1 formation, consisting of two defensive midfielders after using 3-5-2 and 5-3-2 formations during its first four games. The strategy seemed to be paying off numerous times throughout the first half, as Duke opened the game with control of possession and never let it up.
The Blue Devils nearly scored midway through the first half, when on a counter attack senior Rebecca Quinn—starting at midfield despite usually being a defender—played a ball to classmate Toni Payne, who found sophomore Kayla McCoy on the run.
McCoy had only the keeper to beat from the left side of the box but hit the inside of the right post. When the ball deflected out to the right side of the goal, a second chance from junior Imani Dorsey was blocked by a defender a few yards off the goal line.
“It feels a little bit like a loss right now because it feels like we deserved a win,” Duke co-captain Lizzy Raben said. “A little bit unlucky—the forwards created great opportunities, as a team we created great chances. So it sucks one didn’t go in, but I can’t really be disappointed with their work.”
An odd turn of events gave the Blue Devils another chance to get on the board in the first half. Sophomore Chelsea Burns crossed a ball from the left wing that seemed destined to fly wide of the goal for a goal kick. But thanks to the gusting wind, the ball hung in the air and bounced off the crossbar. Payne collected the rebound on the right side of the box and spun around her defender, leading to an attempt at the top shelf that was stopped North Carolina's goalkeeper Lindsey Harris.
Despite going against the wind, Duke finished the first half with 13 shots, three of which were on goal. On the other side of the field, the Blue Devils held the Tar Heels (3-0-1) without a shot for the first 45 minutes.
The second half resulted in few solid looks for either team. With a new formation designed to keep the defense from being too spread out, Duke did not allow the Tar Heels to successfully counter attack, meeting North Carolina challengers with double or triple teams.
“As a back line, we feel really good that we got another shutout,” Raben said. “Defense is a team effort…. We were very technically clean despite the weather.”
The Blue Devils looked sharp during its own counter attacks, but it did not result in many chances to catch the Tar Heels off guard. The gusting wind pushed more than a handful of through ball chances too far forward for Duke to get to them, leaving the Blue Devils frustrated on multiple occasions.
In the first overtime period, Duke had another prime scoring chance, as Dorsey received a ball past the North Carolina back line and in the box. From the left side of the goal, the junior tried sneaking her shot around the keeper and to the back post, but Harris came up with one of her biggest saves of the match.
After scoring 12 goals in its first 105 minutes of the season, the Blue Devils have now only scored three during their last 365 minutes.
“We didn’t do the last component as well as we’d like to do,” Church said. “Soccer can be a cruel game.”
Although Church added that he does not consider the missed scoring chances a trend, Duke will need to get its offense turned around in a hurry ahead of its next match. The Blue Devils return to action in the Duke Nike Classic Sunday against No. 9 Minnesota at 2:30 p.m.
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