Losing by one goal and needing the ball with just 25 seconds left, the Blue Devils were on their way to another heartbreaking defeat against the team that ended their season a year ago. Opposing defender Leigh Lingo was running free down the left sideline as the home team was struggling to chase her down.
But then in came the blur that was Katie Cronin.
Cronin knocked the ball loose, picked up the ensuing groundball, and then sprinted to the net before firing the ball past goalkeeper Morgan Berman to tie the game with time running out in regulation.
“When she was chasing that girl down, I was like, ‘Oh, I know she’s going to get her,” senior captain Ellie Majure said. “When Cronin’s coming up behind you, you know.”
Cronin then won the ensuing draw in overtime, and moments later, junior midfielder Catherine Cordrey found Majure in front to give No. 15 Duke a thrilling 11-10 overtime victory against Virginia Tech at home Saturday afternoon. The Blue Devils did not play at their usual home site Koskinen Stadium due to the pouring rain throughout the week, so the contest was moved to the Cohan Fields just hours before the start, and they also battled back from a 9-6 deficit late in the second half.
“I’m just so proud of our girls. I’m disappointed the weather [was] so bad,” Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “Our kids showed a ton of grit and resilience to be down three [goals] late in the game and just never give up and still believe that we could win the game.”
After scoring 59 times in their first three contests, the Blue Devils (3-1, 1-0 in the ACC) struggled to get going offensively. They committed 18 turnovers and went scoreless for a key 20-minute period in the second half, as their 6-5 lead quickly evaporated into the 9-6 margin with less than eight minutes remaining.
But after Duke’s defense forced two straight turnovers—the Hokies coughed up the ball 19 times in a sloppy affair—Olivia Jenner scored her second of three tallies of the game, which gave the Blue Devils just enough confidence to mount their comeback.
It was the defensive unit, though, that put Duke in a position to secure its comeback. After surrendering 21 goals their last time out, the Blue Devil defense came prepared. Junior goalkeeper Gabbe Cadoux notched 10 saves, including a flurry when Virginia Tech went on its second half run. Around the Elliott City, Md., native, sophomore defender Callie Humphrey caused two turnovers and senior Charlotte Tucci grabbed four groundballs to help limit the Hokies’ leading scorer, Paige Petty, who found the back of the net just twice despite attempting 11 shots.
“I think we did a really phenomenal job dealing with adversity. Last game, we had trouble dealing with mistakes, but this game, once we saw something happen and they scored, we corrected it on the very next play,” Humphrey said.
In a physical affair featuring 55 fouls and nine yellow cards, the two teams traded goals throughout the first half. Leading scorer Charlotte North paced Duke in the first half with two of her three goals, but the home squad could not find a way to pull away despite its defensive effort.
But when the Blue Devils grabbed the momentum back behind Cronin’s heroics, they made sure they would not give it up again. After Cronin’s draw control in overtime, Duke ran a set play to Majure, who notched her first marker of the season. By the time the ball reach the twine, the Blue Devils were celebrating in the treacherous conditions.
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“I think I actually had tears coming down my face because I knew that was all our team had been working for in the preseason,” Humphrey said.
For a team claiming they are far removed from those of the last two seasons—both extreme disappointments by their standards—Kimel’s squad was able to take their first step in backing up their statements.
And they were sure to credit their grit along the way.
“I’m just grateful that we made some great plays at the end of the game to pull this one out,” Kimel said. “At the end of the day, we wanted it more and that’s how we won the game.”