For a team that has struggled with consistency, the Blue Devils have made a penchant for coming together when it matters most.
And with crucial seeding in the ACC tournament on the line, Duke delivered yet again.
The 14th-ranked Blue Devils took down No. 18 Virginia Tech 2-0 thanks to a brace from freshman Issa Rayyan at Sandra D. Thompson Field in Blacksburg, Va. With the win, Duke has secured a No. 3 seed in the ACC tournament and will thus earn a first-round bye—the Blue Devils' best regular season result since 2011. Rayyan's two goals mark an important development for Duke's offense, the Blue Devils finally have a scoring option outside of junior Daniele Proch and sophomore Daniel Wright.
"Our plan was to press them in their own end and force them to play it long, which they did quite often when they had balls," Duke head coach John Kerr told GoDuke.com. "We were first to every ball in the first half and we were really sharp in our passing and really created some havoc in their final third."
From the onset, the Blue Devils were gunning to build an early lead and keep it.
In the first 15 minutes of play, Duke initiated a full press, drawing three corners and keeping the ball firmly on the Hokies' side of the field. However, none of the Blue Devil attempts connected as pouring rain led to slippery and disjointed play.
However, Duke's offensive efforts finally came to fruition just minutes later as the Blue Devils asserted their dominance in Blacksburg.
Punishing a deep drive from Virginia Tech that was deflected by a timely tackle from sophomore defender Matthias Frick, Proch drove a lane up the field to enter the heart of Hokie territory. The Blue Devil midfielder found a wide-open and backward-facing Rayyan at the mouth of the net. Rather than wasting time with a spin, the freshman midfielder instead opted for a backwards tap right past Virginia Tech keeper Mathijs Swaneveld to put the visiting team up early.
For the rest of the half, the Blue Devils were firmly in control, attempting a total of nine shots to the Hokies zero in the first period and forcing Swaneveld to pick up four saves. Duke came close to tallying another score in the half thanks to set ups from junior Jack Doran and freshman Aedan Stanley, but both attempts sailed just off target and Duke settled for a 1-0 lead heading into the locker room.
Almost immediately after entering the second period, Rayyan struck again.
Teaming up with Proch for the drive, Rayyan took a feed from the junior Blue Devil and charged with just a defender between him and the net. A side-step spin move sent the Virginia Tech backfielder careening off his assignment, and the Duke freshman launched a rocket to seal the last score of the match.
"[Issa Rayyan] is learning some things in the college game and he's getting used to the pace," Kerr said. "He's really informed now and if he can score goals with some of the creative play he has it's really good for Duke soccer."
Although the Hokies refused to go down without a fight, taking eight shots in the second period, the Blue Devils' defenders applied pressure throughout the match to keep Virginia Tech at bay. Duke managed to hold the Hokies without a shot until the 66th minute, and none of Virginia Tech attempts were on target.
With this win, the Blue Devils will get an extra week to prepare before embarking on their quest for the ACC championship title. Duke will take on the winner between the No. 6 and No. 11 seed, and will host their quarterfinal match Sunday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m.
"[Getting a first-round bye was our aim before the game," Kerr said. "We had them ahead of us thinking that if we got the win we would have a first-round bye for the ACC we would put ourselves in a good position for the NCAA tournament selection. It's a huge win away from home and our third top-10 win so far this season so we're very excited about that."
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