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Duke women's soccer completes comeback against Clemson on Racioppi's game-winner

<p>Taylor Racioppi scored the Blue Devils' game-winning goal Saturday.</p>

Taylor Racioppi scored the Blue Devils' game-winning goal Saturday.

After going down a goal just eight minutes into the game, the Blue Devils fought back and barreled their way through the Tigers to another ACC victory. 

No. 11 Duke defeated Clemson 3-2 Saturday afternoon at Riggs Field in Clemson, S.C, breaking a streak of losses at Clemson that dated back to 2011. After falling behind on an early goal by the Tigers, the Blue Devils pushed past their opposer’s momentum and brought a win home.  

“I thought we did a really great job in the final third. We had three really nice goals but also we had a whole different mentality in the second half,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “We went after them and found that first goal which was really important...it was being much more aggressive in the second half and it was a change of mentality of our players.” 

With the score tied midway through the second half, the Blue Devils (11-2-2, 5-1-1 in the ACC) were desperate for a goal to give them the upper hand, and senior Taylor Racioppi was there to deliver. Racioppi, who received a yellow card in the 73rd minute, scored the team’s game-winning goal only three minutes later. Lily Nabet assisted on Racioppi’s sixth goal of the season, which came from 24 yards out and landed perfectly in the bottom right corner.  

“She just absolutely caught it perfectly, it was a bomb that just went to the forward motion,” Church said. “It was a great goal, once she received it she had space to run forward and she attacked that space and then she really caught the ball low hard ball and it was a tough one with the keeper and it was just a great winning goal by one of our seniors,” 

Both teams continued to fight, as back-to-back shots at goal were attempted on either side. However, the Blue Devils were able to close out the game after a long fought victory. 

The game did not look good for the Blue Devils as the Tigers (9-6-0, 4-3-0) came storming out of the gates, getting off two attempts at goal both in the seventh minute of the game. Highlighting the teams’ aggression and being unwilling to accept their misses, senior Mariana Speckmaier came through for Clemson’s first goal just one minute later.  

This first shot set the tone for the rest of the first half to follow. 

Through the 45 minutes of the first half, the Tigers had eight attempts at goal compared to just two by the Blue Devils. Clemson, a team which doesn’t give away many goals, was clearly showing its dominance on home field. 

Going into the second half, the Blue Devils had a decision to make on how they were going to react and how they were going to battle such an offensive team. 

“Obviously the momentum was going against us there,” Church said. “I thought Clemson was better than we were in the first half but I think one of the big keys was it was only 1-0 at halftime. And then in the second half we came back with a completely different formation, and completely different mentalities that kind of took over the game.” 

The second half burst quickly into life. In the second minute, senior Kat McDonald blasted a shot from 20 yards out that found the top right corner of the goal. 

But the Blue Devils weren’t finished just yet. Before the Tigers were able to react to this change in aggression from the Blue Devils, senior Kayla McCoy added another goal seven minutes later. McCoy’s ninth goal of the season was assisted by sophomore Tess Boade, and shot ten yards from the left side.  

Duke’s lead lasted ten minutes, as Clemson’s redshirt senior Miranda Weslake tied the game at 2-2 in the 65th minute, but Racioppi would put the Blue Devils back on top just minutes later.

Although Duke played well in the second half, there are still some improvements it would like to make moving forward. With two home games in the coming weekends against two of the better teams in the league, the Blue Devils are hoping to remain consistent throughout and play better in the first half.  

Duke will return to Durham to finish up ACC play by hosting Louisville Thursday, and Boston College Sunday, when the Blue Devils will honor their four seniors.

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