It didn’t take long on Friday night for the Blue Devils to find the back of the net and score the game-winning goal that would break the program’s single-season wins record and send the team to its second College Cup in three years.
Five minutes and 46 seconds, to be exact.
Top-seeded Duke took control of the physical matchup against Baylor from the beginning Friday at Koskinen Stadium, and never looked back after junior forward Kayla McCoy found the back of the net to open the first half. The Blue Devils went on to score three more goals in the second half in the 4-0 win and continued their streak of shutting out every NCAA tournament opponent this season.
Now, they are headed to the Final Four for the fourth time in school history.
The 4-0 Duke victory has a hint of historic irony as well, as the only time the teams had previously met was in Durham in 1998—when Baylor downed the Blue Devils 4-0. Duke's dominant win marked its 23rd for the year, breaking the record of 22 it set in 2011, but it’s a milestone that head coach Robbie Church doesn’t want to focus on just yet.
“It’s great, but the most important thing is that we are still playing,” Church said. “This team has broken a lot of records. As soon as the year is over, we’ll sit back and feel good about that.”
The first of Duke’s four goals came from McCoy off an assist from junior midfielder Taylor Racioppi.
Baylor’s freshman goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt used a goal kick to launch the ball to midfield after McCoy sent a left-footed shot from the top of the 18-yard box just wide of the goal. From midfield, Duke sophomore Ella Stevens sent a pass to Racioppi, who chased it down to the Baylor end line and sent a rolling cross into the box for McCoy. The Lincolnwood, Ill., native pounced on the ball, punching it into the net from just a few yards out to pick up her 14th goal of the season.
“It was definitely huge to get the early goal. It’s a great game-setter, when you can score early like that,” McCoy said. “Taylor did a great job getting [to the] end line and getting around her defender and looking for us, and I was just thankful to be able to get on the end of it.”
The Bears—the third Big 12 team Duke has faced through the first four rounds of the NCAA tournament—came to Koskinen riding a six-game winning streak and was playing in the Elite Eight in program history. The Big 12 champions failed to put a shot on goal in the first half, notching 12 fouls and losing junior forward Lauren Piercy after her second yellow card in the 40th minute. Piercy, who led the Bears in shots on goal, was sent off for a tackle on Blue Devil defender Taylor Mitchell.
The Bears (15-6-3) played physically the whole game, earning 12 fouls in the first half to Duke’s four before settling down and notching only five to Duke’s four in the second half. Baylor also picked up an additional yellow card in the 69th minute on sophomore forward Raegan Padgett. Senior captain Imani Dorsey said Duke (23-2-0) came into the game expecting Baylor to be physical.
“We were ready to get hit—and we were also ready to work with the referee to show him, ‘Hey, this is happening and it’s unacceptable,’” she said.
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With Baylor entering the second half down a player and a goal, it didn’t take the Blue Devils long to stretch their lead.
Just more than one minute into the half, Dorsey fell to the ground in the box while dribbling around defenders before returning to her feet and slipping a pass by a defender to Stevens, who back-heeled the ball past the goalkeeper to record her fifth goal of the season.
Moments later, Dorsey found the back of the net herself with an unassisted goal. She beat two defenders up the left sideline before launching a shot past Wandt into the bottom right corner of the Baylor goal to bring the tally to 3-0.
“I go into every game and I tell myself that I want to be dynamic and aggressive, so if it’s not working in the first half, I’ll just keep trying it and see what happens in the second half,” the senior captain said. “I was getting better chances for myself in the second half, and it came from continuing to work. It’s not like I wasn’t doing it in the first, it just kind of worked out the second time.”
The game was scoreless from then until the 87th minute, when freshman forward Tess Boade scored her first career goal. The Highlands Ranch, Colo., native got an assist from redshirt senior midfielder Rebecca Quinn en route to putting the Blue Devils up 4-0. Boade, at the top of the 18-yard box, used her first touch to back-heel the ball between the legs of the Baylor defender and get a one-on-one look at Wandt. She booted the ball past the goalkeeper into the bottom right corner of the goal with her left foot.
Baylor had a few chances in the second half, forcing Duke goalkeeper EJ Proctor to make two saves.
The senior from Wilson, N.C., led Duke to its 16th shutout of the year, with saves on a free-kick strike from Baylor’s leading scorer, senior Aline De Lima, and a left-footed shot from Julie James from just outside of the 18-yard box. Proctor easily scooped up James' shot, but held onto the ball too long before kicking it away—resulting in an indirect free kick inside the penalty box for the Bears, who could no turn it into a goal.
The Blue Devils will now head to Orlando for the College Cup, where they will face the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal match between Princeton and UCLA next Friday. For 16 members of the current Blue Devil squad, it will be their second trip to the final four—after a 2015 loss in the championship to Penn State.
“We’re going to go down there and we want to win the thing,” Church said. “We’re not going down there to visit Mickey in Orlando. We’re going down there to win the thing. We’ll be prepared and we’ll look forward to Friday night.”
For Dorsey, in particular, playing in the Final Four means her last season in a Blue Devil uniform lasts a bit longer.
“It’s another game that I get to play,” Dorsey said. “And that’s how I look at it right now—if we turn out being national champions at the end, that is a dream come true. But if I also get another game in the process, that’s all I want.”