After one of its offense's quietest halves of the season, Duke came alive out of the locker room to overwhelm Virginia Tech.
The No. 17 Blue Devils beat the Hokies 2-0 Sunday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium, with senior Kayla McCoy and sophomore Karlie Paschall each contributing late goals. Duke pressed forward for 13 shots and several dangerous scoring opportunities in the second half after only managing three shots before the break, and the Blue Devils held Virginia Tech to just two shots all afternoon.
Duke head coach Robbie Church credited associate head coach Erwin van Bennekom for making a tactical adjustment in the halftime locker room that opened the field up for more opportunities.
"At halftime, we read where the spaces were and how we attacked with it, we made that change," Church said. "It led to real domination in the second half, so great move by him, great move by the staff and great execution obviously by the players to create some overloads in different parts of the field."
Neither team threatened to score throughout a physical first half, but Duke (10-2-2, 4-1-1 in the ACC) immediately put together a flurry of chances in the first 10 minutes of the second half.
Senior Taylor Racioppi ran onto a pass a few yards in front of the goal and lunged for a shot that Virginia Tech goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn dove to stop. Moments later, Racioppi spun to dribble past her defender and shot from a tight angle at McGlynn, who saved it with her chest and fell on the ball to prevent a rebound opportunity. McGlynn, the reigning ACC Defensive Player of the Week, finished with eight saves to keep the Hokies (7-4-3, 3-3-0) in the game.
"We knew going into the second half we needed to pick it up a little bit. The energy was a little bit lacking and we weren’t exactly playing the type of game that we wanted to play," McCoy said. "Robbie really told us that we needed to bring the energy, bring a little bit more fire onto the field."
Racioppi had another golden opportunity eight minutes into the half when she received a pass from Delaney Graham right in front of the goal but drilled the shot just over the crossbar. McCoy took her first crack at the goal in the 62nd minute, firing a shot while falling to her left that McGlynn corralled, but the Duke senior finally put the Blue Devils on the scoreboard five minutes later.
McCoy was all alone in the box and took a pass from senior captain Kat McDonald, spun around and struck a perfect shot into the bottom left corner of the net while Virginia Tech's defenders pleaded for an offsides whistle to bail them out.
"It was a great slip ball through [from McDonald]," McCoy said. "I just kind of popped off the outside defender and had an open shot on goal."
Duke kept the pressure on it its attacking third after its first goal and found another breakthrough with less than five minutes to play when Paschall placed a free kick from just outside the box into the top right corner of the net.
"You go into that last 10 minutes, you’re always like, 'Okay, what are we going to do? We’re going to keep playing forward or we’re going to drop back a little bit,'" van Bennekom said. "That second goal allowed us to keep playing and not be nervous about maybe conceding."
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The Hokies never put together a real scoring threat, and their only shot on goal was a desperate attempt from outside the box in the second half that goalkeeper Brooke Heinsohn easily controlled. Sophomore Remi Swartz started and played the whole game on the back line for the first time of her career, filling in after classmate Taylor Mitchell went down with a leg injury in Thursday's 3-2 win against Wake Forest, and helped the Blue Devil defense turn away every threat.
"Anywhere, any player, just always be ready, and somebody gets hurt, then somebody steps in," van Bennekom said. "She did a great job over both games this weekend."
Duke will enjoy a couple of days off during fall break this week and returns to the field to visit Clemson Saturday evening.