Following a disappointing double-overtime draw with NC State, the Blue Devils were just seconds away from the same story repeating itself.

Luckily for Duke, senior Kat McDonald wasn't going to let her team end their night with another heart breaker.

With just 49 seconds left on the clock, midfielder Ella Stevens chipped the ball to McDonald off a free kick, and the senior Blue Devil headed the ball past the goalkeeper’s hands to give the home team a long sought-after victory.

No. 17 Duke pulled out a scrappy 3-2 victory against Wake Forest thanks to heroics from its senior class Thursday night at Koskinen Stadium. Kayla McCoy notched two goals while McDonald sealed the deal to snap a two-game skid.

“Everything is going to be like this game,” Blue Devil head coach Robbie Church said. “Everything is going to be a fight to the end. Nobody is going to quit in this league. It doesn’t matter what the score is—the game isn’t over until the final whistle.”

Duke (9-2-2, 3-1-1) entered the game in a shooting slump, coming off two non-wins including a tie against N.C. State that saw twenty shots with only one conversion. For the Blue Devils, efficiency was imperative.

That efficiency started with none other than McCoy. With the Lincolnwood, Ill., native having five goals on the season coming into Thursday’s match, Duke placed an emphasis on getting her touches.

“In practice, we were really working offensively with the two days we had, getting the ball into her, trying to serve balls from longer distances, getting inside a little more, and shortening up the pass to her,” Church said.

Just three minutes into the match, McCoy made her presence known. Midfielder Taylor Racioppi threaded the needle to McCoy, who put the shot in with ease near the right post. The senior forward struck again in the 28th minute thanks to McDonald, who launched a perfect ball up field to the waiting McCoy. The Blue Devil beat the Wake Forest netminder in the one-on-one to put her team up by two.  

The first half saw Duke dominating possession, largely credited to the Blue Devils’ defensive players playing with great poise. Despite the Demon Deacons (6-5-1, 2-3-0 in the ACC) exerting tough pressure near Duke’s goal, the Blue Devils’ back line seamlessly broke the press. Wake Forest’s offensive stride was thrown in disarray, and the Demon Deacons were unable to get a clean shot off in the first 24 minutes of the game.

However, although Duke went into the half up 2-0 and firing on all cylinders, the Demon Deacons remained unfazed. Wake Forest switched gears and ran the offense with a more patient, deliberate pace. Within just five minutes, the Demon Deacons were able to open up two shot opportunities, albeit with no conversions.

The visiting team remained persistent, and in the 60th minute, midfielder Bayley Feist sent in a bullet from outside the box to put the Wake Forest within one. That was all the Demon Deacons needed to spark into life.

On defense, Wake Forest turned its press from intense to absolutely smothering. Flying around with fury, the visiting team made things physical, committing thirteen fouls and obtaining two yellow cards in the second half. The Blue Devils were unable to advance the ball as the pace of the game increased, let alone get a clean shot off.

Intense play quickly turned to a halt when defender Taylor Mitchell injured her leg and had to be taken off the field. Mitchell, a key piece for Duke’s defensive line, was instrumental to the Demon Deacons’ troubles on offense in the first half.

“She’s huge. She’s one of our leaders in the back,” Church said. “But this is what a team’s about. If a person goes down, the next person has to step up.”

With Mitchell out of the game, Wake Forest took advantage. In the 78th minute, forward Estelle Laurier punched in a shot off a cross from forward Ryann Brown from the left baseline, the zone that Mitchell typically holds ground over.

With the game knotted at 2-2 and a player down, the Blue Devils were again in danger of giving up a much needed victory. The last ten minutes saw both teams trying to make a final push in a draining second half. But luckily for Duke, McDonalds heroics ensured the Blue Devils weren't leaving Koskinen without a win.

“Just to come out with a win in the end gave us a confidence boost, but I’m really proud of the team for sticking together regardless of the fact that they came back from two goals down," McCoy said. "You didn’t see any heads drop, you didn’t see a change in mentality.”

With the victory, the Blue Devils move to 4-1-1 in the ACC and now challenge undefeated North Carolina for a spot at top dog. Duke will look to continue its dominance on its home turf with a battle against Virginia Tech Sunday at 1 p.m.