On a nippy night and amidst a chippy battle that saw Blue Devils give up a goal within the first three minutes, Duke found a way to claw back for its third come-from-behind win of the season.

Though the post-game fireworks show lit up the sky Thursday at Koskinen Stadium, the real action came from No. 10 Duke’s front line, which challenged Louisville’s defenders all night long in a constant attack to defeat the Cardinals 2-1, with goals coming from senior Taylor Racioppi and sophomore Karlie Paschall. This marked the third game in a row where the Blue Devils dug their way out of a hole, coming off a 3-2 victory at Clemson last weekend. 

“This is our third game that we’ve come back from behind, and it's something to really be proud about, but obviously not something that we want to keep repeating,” Racioppi said. “I think we all know what we’re capable of and we’re capable of really good soccer. And so, when we go down a goal it's not a frenzy panic, its let's do our thing and let's do it well and let's execute.”

After scoring the game-winning goal against the Tigers, which went viral and earned her a spot in SportsCenter's Top 10, Racioppi again chipped in an important game-tying goal in the 24th minute off a perfect pass from senior Kayla McCoy. McCoy’s aggressiveness and excellent ball security in the final third also helped her team come back to win the game. 

Head coach Robbie Church was very pleased with another clutch performance from his experienced front line. 

“[McCoy and Racioppi] have been in a lot of big games...you know they’re just terrific players. They’re each having very good senior years. I’m very proud of both of them,” Church said. “We were so good in possession, especially in the second half. Our buildup, our ball movement, our angles, finding in between their lines, we were just really, really good.”

Duke (12-2-2, 6-1-1 in the ACC) outshot the Cardinals 14-5, controlling the ball for most of the match and keeping Louisville’s defenders on their toes. Following Racioppi’s goal in the first half, the Blue Devils kept their foot on the gas, attacking the box and hoping for a go-ahead goal that wouldn’t come until late in the game. 

There were numerous instances when a Blue Devil had a scoring chance deep in the box, only to be tripped up with no-calls from the referee, inciting Duke fans to yell in anger, pleading for a foul call. 

Finally, in the 80th minute, a strong attack from junior Ella Stevens forced a Louisville defender to tackle her near the cage, setting up penalty kick that sophomore Karlie Paschall slotted home. 

“This was a big win for us because Louisville, you know number one they’re a very good team. They had some great attacks, defended well with it too, but this was a big game,” Church said. “I thought we attacked the goal and ran at them really, really well tonight.”

Despite the exciting way in which Duke was able to execute another comeback, as the regular season comes to a close and the postseason approach, the Blue Devils definitely have some things to tighten up in order to make a deep run in the playoffs. Louisville midfielder Emina Ekic easily dribbled past Duke’s back line early in the night to score the Cardinals’ only goal of the game. 

“For us to be where we want to be, we got to be good defensively. We can’t give up goals early in the match and think we’re going to come back every time,” Church said. “The real championship teams play on both sides of the ball.”

Duke’s defense, anchored by goalkeeper Brooke Heinsohn, has shown its ability to shut down opponents throughout the course of the season, with nine shutouts to show for their efforts. 

However, the Blue Devil back line has been inconsistent.

Duke allowed five Cardinal shots in the first half—three on goal—but tightened up defensively in the second period, not giving up any Louisville shots and holding the Cardinals (11-4-0, 5-3-0) scoreless.

“We got to keep the ball, and we take away their attack.... That’s the best way to defend, is when you have the ball,” Church said. 

Duke will round out its regular season with one last home game against No.10 Boston College Sunday, when the Blue Devils will honor their four seniors—McCoy, Racioppi, Chelsea Burns and Kat McDonald—before they travel to Notre Dame next week for their regular-season finale Thursday night.