Although the Blue Devils have not dropped a match in more than two weeks, success hasn’t come easily to Duke.

Periods of stagnation on offense have left the Blue Devils in matches that are sometimes too close for comfort, especially for a team gunning for an ACC title.

No. 14 Duke took down Old Dominion 1-0 Sunday at Koskinen Stadium. Thanks to an early goal from senior Kayla McCoy, the Blue Devils nabbed a lead that they never relinquished. However, an inability to find the back of the net kept the Monarchs in reach the full 90 minutes despite a largely ball-dominant performance from Duke.

“It was a mixed bag,” Blue Devil head coach Robbie Church said. “I wasn’t happy with how we played the first half. I was a little surprised, but that’s on me as a head coach to make sure we’re ready to play. I thought we were. We scored a great goal early in the half, but sometimes that’s the worst thing that can happen.”

Church’s squad snagged the lead in the third minute thanks to a quick push from McCoy. The Lincolnwood, Ill., native cut down the sideline deep into Monarch territory and crossed to freshman Marykate McGuire. Although Old Dominion’s defenders managed to box McGuire out, the freshman forward found an opening to return the ball to McCoy. 

With just Monarch goalkeeper Jasmine Crawley between her and the back of the net, the Duke senior faked to the side and rocketed a shot to notch her second goal of the season.

However, the Blue Devils (6-1-1) struggled to finish for the rest of the period. Although Old Dominion (2-3-2) gave up four penalty opportunities in the first half, Duke struggled to convert. One particularly close opportunity came in the 28th minute, when the Blue Devils pressed the counterattack deep into the other side of the field. Although sophomore Lily Nabet crossed to a wide-open Ella Stevens, the Duke junior over-anticipated the pass and ended up sliding the ball out of bounds.

With 10 minutes left in the half, the Blue Devils turned up the pressure on the Monarchs’ backline, but Old Dominion held strong. In the 36th minute, McCoy drew a foul, setting the Blue Devils up in Monarch territory with a golden opportunity to score. However, a mistimed header popped the ball up, giving Crawley space to grab the shot out of the air.

In the 43rd minute, McCoy tried for one more play to build a sufficient lead heading into the locker room, but the Old Dominion netminder read the attack perfectly and ensured the Blue Devils would stay within arm’s reach.

“[Crawley] made some really great saves,” Church said. “I was very impressed with her. She made herself big and made some nice saves with it. Right now we’re not finishing great, we’re just putting a bunch of balls toward goalkeepers. We’ve got to be a little bit more composed.”

Coming out of the locker room, Duke instantly upped the pressure, matching the number of shots it took from the first period with three shots in the first 16 minutes. 

In the 56th minute, the Blue Devils again set up a dangerous threat, but Crawley held it together as Duke’s offense pressed forward. Nabet fed the ball to Stevens, who immediately rocketed a shot high to the right, but Old Dominion’s goalkeeper jumped for the save and killed the Blue Devil attack.

Despite its shots not connecting, Duke continued a high-tempo attack against the Monarchs’ backline. At the 74th and 76th minute, the Blue Devils earned corner kicks to put themselves in position to finally seal the win. However, despite back-to-back attempts by Stevens to score, Duke could not find a way past Old Dominion’s back line.

“The consistent part is what we’re looking for more than anything else,” Church said. “It’s every day out there. Some players play really well one night, some players don’t play well at all the next night. We understand it’s different people, different roles. When we play at a high level, we play at a very high level. We just have got to get to that high level and stay at that high level.”

Duke will kick off conference play on the road against Syracuse Sunday.

“It’s our first ACC game, so obviously the mentality shifts, nonconference to conference,” McCoy said. “Coming in, we’re going to have to be a bit more competitive. When we go up in a game, we have to be able to finish off a game quicker and have a bit more fight and passion in us, and if we do that, we’ll do really well.”