It is “the beautiful game,” but even a dedicated soccer fan could be forgiven for struggling to find much offensive beauty Wednesday night.
Long after the sun had set on a beautiful night at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, the Blue Devils and Hoyas ground out a 0-0 tie that featured tenacious defense from both teams, but little in the way of offense. During the double-overtime draw between No. 10 Duke and No. 13 Georgetown, the Blue Devils managed just ten shots, only two of which were on goal, as it was shut out for the second game in a row.
"I liked the competitiveness. I liked a shutout; obviously a clean sheet is always one of our goals," said Blue Devils head coach Robbie Church. "I liked that we had some better positional play and we possessed it a little more than we did on Sunday night. We created more opportunities, but there were more opportunities out there to create."
Duke and Georgetown met for the first time ever last August, but since then have had three matchups against each other, including Wednesday night’s contest. They fought to a double-overtime tie just over a year ago in Washington, D.C. before meeting again at the Hoyas’ Shaw Field in the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. The second meeting was less kind than the first to the Blue Devils, who held tight with the eventual national runner-up until midway through the second half, when Georgetown took over en route to a 4-1 win.
After enduring sustained intense pressure from North Carolina in Duke’s first loss of the season Sunday, the Blue Devils’ back line was again put to the test Wednesday against the Hoyas. Georgetown came out pressing hard and mostly controlled the ball for the first part of the game, getting several early shots off before Duke (1-1-1) was able to get anything close to the Hoyas goal.
However, nearly 15 minutes into the contest the Blue Devils finally got the break they were looking for, as Ella Stevens lofted a near-perfect free kick into the box that found the head of Taylor Mitchell. However, her header soared harmlessly past the crossbar as Duke missed out on what would prove to be its best scoring change of the half.
But while the Blue Devils offense struggled to put much pressure on Hoyas goalkeeper Anna Leat, Duke’s Brooke Heinsohn faced slightly more heat on the opposite end of the field, making one save on six Georgetown shots. The Hoyas also had two corner kicks in the first period but failed to capitalize on either one.
"We didn’t play well early in the game and we caused problems by turning the ball over in bad parts of the field," Church said. "We didn’t pass the ball well the first 30 minutes. It was unfortunate half came when it did because we were finally starting to get a little rhythm to our play and a little bit of rhythm to the game. You’ve got two teams that played on Sunday night and then they’ve got to turn around and play again on Wednesday and it’s hard. It’s hard to get your legs back."
The second half began where the first half left off, with neither team really getting much going on the offensive end as both sides were thwarted by strong defensive play and several offsides calls. Duke had more success working the ball into the offensive end but still struggled to find many scoring chances.
With just over ten minutes left in the second half, Delaney Graham and Tess Boade nearly broke free on consecutive runs down the right sideline towards the goal, but a pair of well-timed tackles ended both opportunities. Georgetown (1-1-1) got one more chance to end the game in the last 15 seconds of regulation, but Heinsohn smothered Julia Leas’ desperation shot to send the game to overtime.
Little changed in either overtime period, as neither team could find space to operate on offense and both failed to generate many opportunities. The Blue Devils managed to fire four shots in the first overtime period—they had ten all game—but just one was on goal. In the final ten minutes, the teams combined for one shot total.
Duke will remain in Durham through mid-September, as the Blue Devils finish out a six-game homestand that continues this Saturday with their second quick turnaround of the week against Santa Clara at Koskinen Stadium.
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"[This stretch] is going to be hard. What we need to do is get on the practice field. We just don’t have any time," Church said. "We obviously use video and walkthroughs, but it’s not good enough. But that’s what it is. We have to go back, keep working. We’re going to be fine, we just need a little confidence. We need that goal to come, we need somebody especially in the final third to take charge. The last couple of years you knew who was going to score goals, you knew who was going to take charge, and we’re still searching for that personality."