Before Sunday’s game, the public address announcer at Koskinen Stadium asked the crowd to get rowdy, saying that the game day staff would throw pink-colored mini soccer balls from the top of Kennedy Tower.
But there were no soccer balls for several minutes, foreshadowing the slow start the Blue Devils would need before getting on the scoreboard.
And like the eventual tossing of the mini balls, once Duke scored, it did so in a flurry.
After failing to capitalize on scoring chances in the first half, the fourth-ranked Blue Devils won their 14th straight game with a 3-0 victory against Miami Sunday afternoon and finished the game allowing no shots for the first time since Aug. 29, 2003. Once the second half came around, Duke broke the game open with a goal by Kayla McCoy that was quickly followed by a Rebecca Quinn score, and Malinda Allen found the back of the net in the closing minutes to round out the scoring.
“It was difficult [to score at first] because they packed it in a lot, and so they had a lot of numbers, especially around their 18 and in the box,” Quinn said. “We were frustrated trying to play it through them and get those nice finishes behind their back line, so I think we sometimes settled for shots outside the 18.”
Duke blew a few opportunities in the first half that resulted in the Blue Devils, undefeated in ACC play entering the game, being tied at the half with the Hurricanes—a team that has not won a conference game.
Chelsea Burns had a penalty kick in the 14th minute, but shot it to the right at the lunging goalkeeper for her first miss at the spot in five tries this year. A little later, Quinn would have been on the receiving end of a free kick from Ella Stevens from outside the box, but standing near the penalty spot with a great chance for a header score, she uncharacteristically whiffed.
Although Duke had no goals to show for it at halftime, it had outshot the Hurricanes 12-0, a theme that would continue. The Blue Devils (14-1, 7-0 in the ACC) never had any shots to stop, as Duke’s back line had hardly any threats to extinguish—Miami (4-9, 0-7) struggled to even get the ball past the Blue Devil midfield.
“We really pressed them, so we didn’t let them out of their half well,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “They didn’t get a lot of rhythm in their build-up.”
McCoy, who struggled to recall how she scored after the game, finished a cross from Dorsey that came on the ground and rolled across the box in front of the goal. McCoy met the ball in stride and poked it into the far side of the goal for the breakthrough.
“We hadn’t had enough people in the box attacking her crosses as we wanted to,” McCoy said of her finish in the 52nd minute. “I think that cross, we had more people available to get on it.”
Quinn then scored her second goal of the year just six minutes later when she hit the ball to the right of the keeper from the top of the box. That goal came off a corner kick, and it was not the last time the Blue Devils scored on a set piece.
Allen scored her second goal of the year with two minutes remaining and the Blue Devils playing mostly reserves to wind out the clock. Olivia Erlbeck, a starter from last year who has only averaged 14 minutes per game, crossed the ball to Allen on a free kick, and Allen finished with a volley to the left side of the goal.
The Blue Devils began the game by having senior goalkeeper Abby Pyne, who has missed essentially her entire career at Duke due to several knee surgeries, start the game in the field and then come out a few seconds later. The gesture was met with applause from a crowd that included many parents who came for Senior Day.
“They’ve represented the university so well over their four years,” Church said of the seniors. “The group has gone the whole gamut and didn’t make the NCAA tournament, [made] the finals, the final eight, and who knows what their journey will be here at the end.”
Duke is back in action on the road next week, first at Boston College Thursday at 7 p.m. and then at Syracuse Sunday at 1 p.m.
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