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Nick Pariano's last-minute goal lifts Duke men's soccer to win in home-opener

Duke won a thriller Friday evening.
Duke won a thriller Friday evening.

Through a grueling 90 minutes of regulation and 19 minutes of overtime, Duke’s home-opener remained scoreless. 

But with just over 30 seconds before the end of double overtime, when the contest would’ve ended in a tie, freshman Nick Pariano found the back of the net to clinch head coach John Kerr’s 200th career win. 

Duke walked away with a 1-0 win against N.C. State Saturday night in its first home game at Koskinen Stadium this season. It’s been 330 days since the Blue Devils last played at home, and after an unprecedented offseason, tallying a hard-fought win is huge for the team.

The Wolfpack had a goal kick to start the final minute of double overtime, and it looked like both teams would walk away with a single point from a draw. However, an aerial win from Blue Devil freshman Lewis McGarvey helped Duke gain possession, and graduate student Jack Doran was able to pass the ball into the middle. 

Though there was a scramble for the ball, freshman Peter Stroud tapped it just enough to find Pariano, who made the smart, fast shot into the left corner of the net. 

“As soon as [Stroud] picked it up, I knew I had to push myself to get a shot off...you know, one touch shot,” Pariano said. “Don’t mess around—get it on goal.”

Kerr commended Pariano on his quick thinking. 

“He had the instincts to understand that the momentum was going one way to their near post, and he had the composure to kind of bend it around them into the far post,” Kerr said.  

Pariano may just be a freshman, but Kerr said he is “one to watch” both this year and in years to come. 

While Pariano’s opportunity panned out, that wasn’t the story for much of regulation. Duke (1-1, 1-0 in the ACC) struggled to get shots on goal, and any offensive momentum was held back by small errors. Oftentimes the team overthought good opportunities, and in trying to make the perfect play took just a little too much time, thus letting the Wolfpack defense catch up to them and kill off the play. The teams were stuck in a game of tug of war, and any momentum generated by either side was quickly stopped and pushed the other way.

“For 109 minutes I was having a heart attack,” Kerr said. 

But in overtime, the mindset and the momentum of the game changed. The Blue Devils totaled three shots in just 20 minutes of overtime, the same amount they had tallied in the entire 90 minutes of regulation, and the focus shifted from pretty plays to shots on goal. 

Not only did offensive play improve, but the defense stepped up in a big way in the second overtime—N.C. State wasn’t able to get off a single shot over the final 10 minutes.

Duke looked toward young talent to step up in meaningful roles throughout the evening. Kerr started four freshman Saturday, with Pariano subbing in later. McGarvey, a defender, played all 109 minutes. 

He, along with fellow freshman Antino Lopez and junior Matthias Frick, anchored the Blue Devils’ back line. Though N.C. State (0-1, 0-1 in the ACC) outshot Duke 9-6 overall, quality matters just as much as quantity, and Duke’s defense did a great job of making sure that the shots that did break through were non-threatening and easy to clear. 

Kerr noted that he wants to carry this solid defensive performance into the rest of the season, and hopefully build a better offense on top of it, singling out offensive possession and quality as key areas that the team needs to improve on. 

“Our possession in certain areas where we gave the ball away too easily was disappointing, and we really have to work on that this week,” Kerr said.

This seasons’ stretched out schedule provides the team a unique opportunity to rest and improve over the coming week. Where in a normal season the Blue Devils would typically have a nonconference game in the middle of the week, this year there is only one total game per week, giving everyone more time to recuperate and work on those areas of improvement. This doesn’t just improve performance—it has also helped prevent injuries, as players are less tired going into games and practices. 

Not only is Duke playing in a unique time for public health, but it is also playing in a unique time for social justice. During warm-ups, the entire team and coaching staff wore “Black Lives Matter” T-Shirts, with many players kneeling for the anthem as well. 

“We’re supportive of the movement, and we’ve had many meetings during COVID talking about the process and trying to educate ourselves and share our feelings and our thought processes,” Kerr said. 

Next week, the Blue Devils play at home again, this time facing off against North Carolina, which defeated N.C. State 1-0 as well in a scrimmage last weekend.

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