A little more than a week ago, it was Duke’s sideline jumping for joy as two late Marykate McGuire goals pushed the Blue Devils past Wake Forest.
But Sunday evening’s rematch provided little opportunity for celebration, only frustration. In fact, the only jumping occurred when Demon Deacons head coach Tony da Luz kicked a crate following a missed penalty kick, got his foot stuck in the crate and had to hop around the sideline.
When the buzzer sounded after 110 minutes of play, the Blue Devils were met with a familiar fate—after playing hard into double-overtime, Duke walked off the field at Koskinen Stadium with its second consecutive tie, this one finishing at 0-0. The draw marks the first time in program history that the Blue Devils have played three straight overtime matches to begin the season.
Duke came into this match coming off a 1-1 tie Thursday against Virginia and a 4-3 win against Wake Forest the previous Thursday. However, 10 days can make a big difference, as the season-opening seven-goal total was reduced to zero Sunday and replaced by the Blue Devils’ struggles to finish in the opponent’s box.
Duke was missing two key players, junior Delaney Graham in the outside back and senior Lily Nabet in the midfield, and couldn’t find a way to get the ball in the net when it met Wake Forest’s back line.
“We were missing our two competitors, and that’s what we lack a little bit is competitors, and those two are our two main people that really compete every second on the ground, every time they’re on the field, and so that part of the game we missed....we were timid in the attacking third,” head coach Robbie Church said. “We had the ball a ton, the second half we were running at them and we didn’t have great quality passes, goalkeeper cut off three or four crosses, we were behind defenders, we didn’t make hard runs in the box. We’ve got to knock down the goal. We have to have more teeth. We have to be more fearless in the attacking third.”
Most of the first half was spent in the Demon Deacons’ defensive half. Duke (1-0-2, 0-0-2 in the ACC) was far more aggressive offensively than in past games, though it couldn’t take advantage of the open sides to finish. Wake Forest held its defensive line strong, blocking any opportunity the Blue Devils had to score, and vice versa.
Duke did perform extremely well defensively, though. The Blue Devils kept Wake Forest (0-2-1, 0-1-1 in the ACC) out of the goalie box for most of the game, with a few key saves by sophomore goalkeeper Ruthie Jones providing insurance. But in the 89th minute, when a foul was called on freshman defender Nicole Chico in the box, the Demon Deacons had a golden opportunity to break the scoreless contest and walk away with the win.
However, Wake Forest senior forward Ryanne Brown was no match for Jones, who made an incredible save against the penalty kick that took the Blue Devils into overtime and sent the Demon Deacon sideline kicking in disappointment.
Despite a game with little surprises, Duke’s starting lineup was full of them. Redshirt senior Mia Gyau, who entered the 2020 campaign coming off three season-ending injuries, played 104 minutes Sunday. Gyau was back and better than ever on defense, keeping her energy high as she played down the left sideline.
“Just even being in the starting lineup… it just feels great being back out and playing with everybody,” Gyau said when asked about how it felt to be back on the field. “And it’s really special that we’ve gotten this season and all the people that have made this happen. It’s just great to be out on the field.”
After their third overtime game in a row, one can assume the Blue Devils are exhausted. However, they did not allow fatigue to impact how they used their time.
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“We won’t give up until the last whistle is blown…. For the whole 110 minutes we were still trying,” Gyau said. “It’s important to get the three points [for the win] especially in such a short season, and so every point matters.”
In the upcoming match against North Carolina this Sunday, Duke will hope that its 110-percent effort can prevent another 110-minute contest.
“Well UNC’s going to challenge us in a number of different ways: offensively, defensively, set plays. We have a good week to prepare for them, so we’re excited about that, that’s going to be great…. We’ve got to make sure that, again, when we get into the final third we’re sharper,” Church said. “We’re sharper with our runs, we’re harder with our runs, we get in front of the defenders. So we’ve got a lot to do, we’ve got a big week, but [North Carolina] is a great opportunity. That’s what we have to make sure we understand: what’s facing us is a great opportunity.”