Playing their second game in three days, Duke came up short against an undefeated Georgetown team with a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals on the line. 

A strong showing from the Blue Devils' underclassmen was not enough to keep their season alive, as No. 4 seed Duke fell to the top-seeded Hoyas 4-1 in the Round of 16 Sunday at Shaw Field in Washington. Freshman All-ACC selection Delaney Graham scored Duke's lone goal, the first of her career, off an assist from senior Kayla McCoy to equalize the score in the second half before the Hoyas finished with three unanswered goals in the last 35 minutes. 

“[We] talked about changing our formation at halftime—Delaney, our quickest and fastest player, getting up and down the flanks. We were looking to change the point of attack,” head coach Robbie Church said. “Kayla took a great little touch, held it to just the right moment and Delaney came flying up the right-hand side and then was very composed to finish that. We felt really good about ourselves at that point.” 

In the first half, Georgetown struck first with a goal in the 15th minute off the foot of senior Caitlin Farrell. Farrell entered the match with 37 points on the season, including four game-winners and 17 goals. She had six shot attempts against the Blue Devils. 

In the 23rd minute, Duke (16-4-2) lost a key part of their defense when senior defender Chelsea Burns went down with a dislocated elbow. Burns was helped off the field and into the locker room. She started every match of her senior season and logged more than 1,500 minutes on the field.

Burns was the second defender the Blue Devils lost in the postseason after sophomore Karlie Paschall tore her Achilles' before Duke’s Round of 64 meeting with Rutgers.  

“Losing Chelsea Burns early in the match was especially tough with the loss of Karlie a few weeks ago. In our back line, we had to change our formation a little bit. We had some people in there who hadn’t played a lot,” Church said. “Injuries caught up with us at the end of the year. No excuse though—Georgetown was still better today—but it just set us behind a little bit.”

The game also marked the final one for seniors McCoy, Taylor Racioppi and Kat McDonald. The Blue Devils' four seniors composed the winningest class in program history, capturing the 2017 ACC regular-season championship and picking up at least one win against every ACC program. The seniors also made four straight NCAA tournament appearances and competed in the national championship game as freshmen in 2015.

“Oh my gosh, one of the best careers ever, our senior class. They’ve really elevated our program from a good program to an elite program,” Church said. “They’re such great people too. They’re fun to be around.... I’m just very proud that I had the opportunity to coach them. They have had a wonderful four years.” 

Duke had a few opportunities in the first half, most notably a shot from sophomore Tess Boade off a McCoy pass. Freshman Marykate McGuire also rolled a ball into the low corner that was saved by All-Big East goalkeeper Arielle Schechtman with less than two minutes left in the half. The Hoya goal in the 15th minute was the only score, however, and the Blue Devils entered the locker room down 1-0.

Georgetown (20-0-3) came out strong in the second half, getting two shot attempts in the first two minutes, but momentum then shifted quickly, as Duke put the equalizer on the board to make it 1-1 thanks to Graham. 

But the Hoyas soon opened the floodgates by adding three more goals. The first came only five minutes after Graham's goal and was launched from outside the box by Kyra Carusa, slipping behind the fingers of Brooke Heinsohn. 

“We didn’t press as high as we wanted to press up the field, and we kind of went for a different lineup being down some back players,” Church said. “When we did press up the field, they broke our numbers and they broke our press....They’re very creative up front. They have three or four really good attacking players and they have a very good attacking mindset.”   

Georgetown tallied two more goals, one in the 72nd minute and one in the 78th, both from junior Paula Germino-Watnick.

The Blue Devils will return the majority of their roster next season, including three of their top five scorers. 

“We have to work hard going forward, there’s no question about it, but we do have the pieces there,” Church said. “We want to be one of the elite programs in the ACC.... We’ll look forward to the challenge. And we’ll be back. We’ll be back in these scenarios. We just have to make the outcome a little bit different next time.”