Unfamiliar times, familiar outcome.
For the first time since March 11, a Duke team got to play on its home field. And, as is typical of 2020, something didn’t cooperate—this time it was the weather, as Duke's home-opener against Virginia Thursday night at Koskinen Stadium was greeted by a downpour and no fans in the stands, unless you count a couple dozen cardboard cutouts.
But despite the rain, no fans and a pandemic, the Blue Devils provided flashbacks to the simpler times of last season with another double-overtime tie, this one knotted at 1-1 when the final buzzer sounded.
"I thought we did some really nice things tonight," head coach Robbie Church said. "I thought we moved the ball well. We broke some of their press, especially early. [The field] did start to collect water at the end of it, so it was hard to keep our possession game. So we had to go a little bit longer. I think we did some really nice things, but the second half, it was tough. We were holding on the second half. They kind of put their will on us.”
The score at halftime may have been 0-0, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Duke (1-0-1, 0-0-1 in the ACC) never found its offensive rhythm in the first half, not getting off a single shot compared to the Cavaliers' five. Lucky for the Blue Devils, sophomore goalkeeper Ruthie Jones—who was making her first career start—was there to keep Duke from digging itself into an early hole with a pair of first-half saves in less-than-ideal conditions.
“It was exciting,” Jones, who finished with six total saves, said of her first career start. “Definitely a big game, so I was just excited to come out and play a great team and I felt confident coming in. I think our team did well and it's just an exciting time. Exciting conditions made things a little more interesting but yeah it was a good time, I was excited.”
Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, they could only hold off Virginia’s offensive pressure for so long. Less than eight minutes into the second half, the Cavaliers' Lia Godfrey fired a rocket from outside the box that found its way past Jones’ outstretched arms and into the right-side netting. And just like that, for the second time in two games, Duke found itself playing from behind.
But just like their season-opener at Wake Forest, the Blue Devils were able to dig deep and kick it into another gear, though this time they didn't wait until three minutes were left in regulation to get their equalizer.
Ten minutes after Virginia (1-0-1, 0-0-1 in the ACC) scored and just a few minutes after another Cavalier shot was stopped inches short of the goal line by Jones and senior defender Taylor Mitchell, Duke found its opening on a free kick from senior forward Tess Boade.
Boade sent it in toward the box, junior forward Marykate McGuire pushed it forward and senior defender Caitlin Cosme finished it off, evening the score at 1-1 with her second goal in as many games.
“Cait’s had a wonderful start to her senior year, she’s our leader back there, she’s our voice,” Church said. “She sees things on the field, she connects players together. She’s a battler. She wins balls in the air. And that's her second goal. She was talking about being a forward at the end of the game—I said let’s not talk that craziness right there. She’s just brave. She will run through things, she will run through people. So especially on set plays it's all about bravery.”
After the equalizer, Duke only got one more good look at the goal on a shot from junior defender Delaney Graham in the 70th minute. Virginia, on the other hand, kept up the pressure and nearly sealed the deal a number of times, both in the second half and in overtime.
But between Jones, the Duke defense and a whole lot of grit, the Blue Devils were able to keep the Cavaliers from sneaking another one between the posts.
“Grit was one of the things...that we knew we would have to have to play this good team,” Jones said. “Especially as the game went on, the conditions got worse—it was hard to see, it was hard to play, people’s touches were going everywhere. I think just the grit we had, the intensity we kept to stay in the game after going down one was huge, and it was everything we needed today.”
Duke won’t have the luxury of a week to get ready before its next match, as the Blue Devils face off against Wake Forest for the second time in 11 days this Sunday at Koskinen Stadium. The Demon Deacons are coming off a 4-1 loss to North Carolina Thursday, so they’ll be hungry to notch their first win of the season.
“We know that’s going to be a very tough game, but it's one we got to do our work,” Church said of the upcoming match against Wake Forest. “But we’ve just got to keep the ball more. That’s our goal on Sunday is to keep the ball, move the ball and then execute when we get in their box. We got to do a little bit better execution.”
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