For the past three years, the Duke-Notre Dame game has been decided by one goal. And, each time, the Irish came out on top.
But, with the Blue Devils having already surpassed their win total from the past two years, things looked to be different this year. And they were, just not in the way that the hosts had envisioned.
No. 12 Duke fell to fourth-ranked Notre Dame at Koskinen Stadium by a score of 15-7. After consistently proving their skill against unranked opponents this year, the Blue Devils have struggled against teams in the top 25, going 1-6 in those matchups, with the lone win coming against Virginia Tech.
After dominating the draw all season, ranking first in the country in that category and winning the draw in 10 consecutive contests, Duke didn’t look at all like itself against Notre Dame—the No. 2 control percentage team. At the end of the day, the Irish had decimated the Blue Devils in that category, easily winning 16-7.
“Really disappointed in our effort today,” said Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel. “I felt like we did not compete or execute our game plan at all. They’re very good and we didn’t compete well on the draw and because we didn’t compete well on the draw, we gave them too many opportunities.”
Notre Dame (13-2, 5-2 in the ACC) jumped out to a 6-0 lead less than seven minutes into the opening half behind an early hat trick from sophomore midfielder Andie Aldave. Sophomore attacker Charlotte North opened the scoring for Duke (9-6, 2-4) and sophomore midfielder Katie Cronin tacked on another, but the Irish responded with two goals of their own. After a back and forth affair, the Blue Devils scored three of the final four goals of the half, bringing the deficit back to four with a score of 10-6.
“I thought we got into a rhythm defensively [towards the end of the first half],” said Kimel. “Offensively, when we had the ball we got the looks we wanted and we finished. I think we had taken 9 shots and scored 6 goals so that’s pretty good from a percentage standpoint.”
After taking momentum into half with them, the Blue Devils looked to continue their scoring ways in the second half. Notre Dame had other plans. The Irish quickly scored at the beginning of the half but North responded, cutting the deficit back to four. It would never be closer, as Notre Dame rattled off four more goals in the half and Duke never saw the back of the net again.
After an efficient first half, the Blue Devils were anything but in the second half, only scoring one goal on nine shot attempts—the same number of shot attempts as they’d had in the first half. They were taken out of any semblance of rhythm in the second half, often rushing for the first available shot when given the opportunity to score rather than waiting for a better shot. Duke ended with zero assists on seven made goals to Notre Dame’s eight assists.
“[Notre Dame’s] goalie is one of the best goalies in the country,” said Kimel. “We had a very specific scout in terms of the looks we wanted to put on cage for her because she’s jumpy and she comes out high. The opportunities that we had in the second half—we did not take good shots, we didn’t move her at all. We shot right to her stick.”
Duke ended the day with 18 shots to Notre Dame’s 44. And, after going 3-for-3 on free-position shots in the first half, the Blue Devils went 0-for-3 in the second. Defensively, however, there was a bright spot. After not making a single save against East Carolina, goalkeepers Gabbe Cadoux and Chase Henriquez combined for a season-high 16 saves.
It’s a loss that the Blue Devils will feel for a while, not only because of the disappointing result but because of the physicality. Both teams fouled significantly more than usual, with Notre Dame picking up 24 fouls and Duke committing 36—its season average is 19. In the 14 matches prior to this one, the Blue Devils had received 18 yellow cards—they received six Sunday.
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The Blue Devils have one more match before the start of ACC championships, a Friday night showdown at Koskinen against rival North Carolina in another top-10 matchup.
“We have to compete better starting [against UNC] and be able to execute better than we did today,” Kimel said.