Another matchup with N.C. State, and another win for Duke.
The Blue Devils’ last game against the Wolfpack, just two weeks ago, ended in a goal by freshman midfielder Nick Pariano with 34 seconds remaining in double-overtime. The rematch played out quite differently, however, with Duke cruising to a 3-1 win Friday night at Doak Field.
The stakes were high for both teams going into the game. For the Blue Devils, winning this match would help improve their chances of making the ACC tournament, where only four spots are open out of the five teams in the conference’s South Region. Duke was also coming off a 2-0 loss to North Carolina last Friday and in great need of some extra points to stay out of that bottom spot.
And it was clear that the Blue Devils brought their A-game to Raleigh.
Duke (2-2, 2-1 in the ACC) started out the contest aggressively and maintained a tight defensive line. The Blue Devils moved the ball quickly and dominated possessions to avoid allowing the Wolfpack (0-3, 0-3) to penetrate their back line. The first half ended in a stalemate at 0-0, with Duke taking two shots on goal and N.C. State only one.
Luckily, whatever halftime wisdom head coach John Kerr bestowed upon the Blue Devils worked, and Duke came out in the second half refreshed and focused. The pace of game began to pick up, and the Blue Devils’ offense became more determined to finish in the attacking third.
“I just reminded them what the game plan was, and the game plan from the start was to really put them under pressure and have them work really hard,” Kerr said when asked what spurred this second-half shift in momentum. “I knew that they would open up for sure in the second half, because they had to really work hard in the first half. So, my plan worked to fruition there for us.”
Freshman defender Lewis McGarvey notched the first goal of the game—and the first of his college career—in the 60th minute with a header off a free kick landing in the far post, just past Wolfpack goalkeeper Leon Krapf’s fingertips. The score boosted Duke’s confidence, leading to another goal just eight minutes later.
This time, another Blue Devil free kick ended up with the ball right in front of the post, where graduate student midfielder Jack Doran finished the play and sent the ball right through Krapf’s legs to give Duke a 2-0 lead.
“I knew that we would wear them out if we pressed them hard, and we did quite well in the first half and it just didn’t get capitalized,” Kerr said. “The goalkeeper made two world-class saves to cause us some problems there, but I thought in the second half things went up, and I knew that once we scored the first goal, we’d have even more chances.”
N.C. State forward Ivy Brisma cut the home team’s deficit in half with a goal in the 70th minute. But the Blue Devils kept up the intensity, scoring again in the 87th minute to all but seal the win.
Pariano took yet another Duke free kick and was met with defensive power by the Wolfpack that sent the ball directly to senior forward Daniel Wright’s feet, giving him the perfect opportunity to send it into the low right corner of the net and just out of Kapf’s reach.
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Wright and Doran are now tied for the team lead this season with two goals apiece.
Looking forward, the Blue Devils head to Clemson, S.C., for a battle against No. 3 Clemson next Friday. The Tigers are coming off a loss of their own against North Carolina this week, and both them and Duke will be in desperate need of a victory as they enter the second half of the regular season.
“Clemson’s a formidable team,” Kerr said. “They’ve got some good experience coming back, and some good new players. They’ve got a lot of pace, a lot of strength, and we’re going to have our hands full. It’s not going to be easy going down to Clemson next week.”