After some rocky moments early in the season, Duke looked to have finally ironed out some of the rougher aspects of its play and be ready to contend with some of the top teams in the nation.
But against No. 4 Virginia, some of the Blue Devils’ old inconsistencies came back to haunt them, leading to a bitter loss despite controlling the tempo on most of the offense.
No. 12 Duke fell to the Cavaliers 2-1 Sunday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium. In a chippy back-and-forth affair where the teams combined for 27 fouls—with the hosts contributing 15—mistakes that ultimately cost the Blue Devils in the face of a stingy Virginia defense, breaking a seven-match winning streak.
“We had chances in the first half,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “We left a couple chances on the field early in the match. We came out on the field and I thought we played very well early in the match, and if we score a goal and we score a second goal with it, the whole match changes.”
Although the Blue Devils (8-2-1, 2-1-0 in the ACC) controlled the pace of the offense for much of the first period, it was the visitors that took the lead early.
After running the ball up and down the field, the Cavaliers (8-1-0, 1-1-0) finally took control and created an opportunity to score. Although senior Kat McDonald battled for control, Cavalier forward Taryn Torres cut past the Blue Devil midfielder and launched the ball into the box. Duke defenders collapsed around the box and a mistimed pass from Chelsea Burns sent the ball the wrong way. Brooke Heinsohn dove to recover, but the redshirt sophomore came up just inches short the save, putting Virginia up by one and forcing the Blue Devils to turn up the pressure.
Unfortunately for Duke, Cavalier netminder Laurel Ivory made sure to keep its offense in check.
The Blue Devils picked up the pace thanks to efforts from senior forward Kayla McCoy, who cut through Virginia’s midfield formation, putting just a keeper and a defender between her and the net. However, constant pressure from the Cavaliers drove her wide, and what could have been a clean shot was forced early and chipped over the post.
The last real chances the Blue Devils would create in the first period came from back-to-back corner opportunities at the 30th minute. After the Cavaliers headed the first corner out of bounds, sophomore Karlie Paschall lobbed the second towards Taylor Mitchell. Although Mitchell was in good position to head the ball in, Ivory shot out of the side to snatch the ball out of the air and kill Duke’s drive.
“When you go down a goal, you have a tendency to play with a sense of urgency,” Church said. “I thought we were playing well before the own-goal. Our pace was quick, we were catching them on the counter, we were catching them with a breakaway. We had Ella in front of the goal too. Those were great opportunities, with good people in front of the goal with the ball, but we just did not convert it.”
Out of the locker room, the Blue Devils went right back on the attack. Again, Duke notched back-to-back corners, but stalwart defense from the Cavaliers kept the Blue Devils at bay. Duke totaled four shots in the first period and added just one to that number in the second, despite controlling the pace of the offense for much of the contest.
After battling back and forth at midfield, the Cavaliers sealed the deal after turning the offense around on Duke. Although Heinsohn blocked Rebecca Jarrett’s initial attack, the Cavalier freshman ran back in for the attack off a pass from teammate Alexa Spaanstra. Jarrett shot low and Heinsohn reacted a half-second too slow to react, giving the Cavaliers a 2-0 lead with under 15 minutes left to play.
McCoy would finally get the Blue Devils on the board thanks to a pass from Paschall for an open look, but Duke’s lone goal of the afternoon came with just a minute left of play in garbage time.
The Blue Devils will continue ACC play with a matchup against another ranked opponent, No. 16 N.C. State, Thursday in Raleigh.
“We lacked quality,” Church said. “We lacked quality today on some crosses, some finishing, opportunities with it too…. We saw glimpses of some of the things we can do against some of the best teams in the nation. It is disappointing, no question about that, but we have to get ready for N.C. State. In this league you have to have a short-term memory. We have to move to recovery right now for N.C. State.”
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