The Blue Devils have been making history all year, but after officially tying their program record for wins in a single season Sunday afternoon, there is only one word to fully encapsulate Duke’s 22-win campaign: Elite.
The top-seeded Blue Devils secured their spot in the Elite Eight with a 3-0 romp of No. 4 seed Texas in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament at Koskinen Stadium. Senior captain Imani Dorsey put Duke on the board in the third minute of Sunday’s game, and juniors Kayla McCoy and Taylor Racioppi followed up her efforts later in the contest to round out the scoring effort.
“We’re in the final eight teams out of 333 and we’re 90 minutes away from the Final Four, which has been a huge goal of ours all year,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “This team deserves everything they’ve gotten. They’ve worked hard and they’re obviously very, very good. We’re a very confident team right now and this was a fantastic weekend.”
Duke (22-2-0) came out aggressive from the opening touch. After Racioppi delivered a clean pass through the box, Dorsey broke through just 2:45 into the contest. The Elkridge, Md., native—who was named ACC Offensive Player of the Year—sent a hard ball into the back left corner of the net. Dorsey leads the Blue Devils with 13 goals, five of which were game-winners, and nine assists on the season.
Dorsey’s score marked Duke’s second-fastest goal of the season, clocking in just eight seconds slower than sophomore Ella Stevens’ opening score in the Blue Devils’ 3-1 win against Bucknell Aug. 25. Church credited Dorsey’s early effort with setting the tone for the remainder of the match.
“It’s huge,” Church said. “Those early goals are huge because they give you confidence and put the other team on their back foot.... Taylor played a nice ball to Imani, and of course Imani does what she does and finishes it.”
After a brief lull for Duke’s offense, McCoy found the back of the net in the 31st minute. Stevens beat a defender on the left flank and lofted a long ball into the box, where McCoy ran onto the ball and laid out for a diving header.
The Lincolnwood, Ill., native has been a prolific scorer alongside Dorsey this season. Her 13 goals and seven assists rank second on the team, and the attacking duo has accounted for 46.4 percent of the Blue Devils’ goals this year.
“Their defense was running back toward the goal, and I saw a chance to just get on it before the keeper came out,” McCoy said. “I went to head it and it was a little bit further away from me than I initially thought, so I went full extension.”
The second half was quieter for Duke, but Racioppi scored her second goal in as many games in the 65th minute. Stevens found the Ocean Township, N.J., native as she made a run to the top of the arc. After some advanced footwork that left her defender reeling, Racioppi sent a rocket to the top shelf from just inside the 18-yard box for her fifth goal of the season.
The Blue Devils closed out the game without much further action on either end of the field. Duke outshot the Longhorns 14-6, and the Blue Devil back line limited Texas (14-4-3) to just one shot on goal throughout the contest. Duke has yet to allow a goal in NCAA tournament play heading into the Elite Eight.
“We were creating chances, and when we create chances, we’re going to score goals,” Church said. “Taylor had a really nice goal in the second half. She’s played at a really high level during the NCAA tournament, which is great to see. It’s something that we need.”
The Blue Devils will move on to face Baylor Friday at 5 p.m. for a shot at the Final Four in their final home game of the season. The winner of that matchup will travel to Orlando, Fla., the following weekend.
“I’m just glad we’re home,” Church said. “The final eight is always a very tricky game because you’re only 90 minutes away from a Final Four, so we’re excited to have it at home and be familiar with our surroundings.”
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