CHAPEL HILL—In what’s become the theme of its season, Duke fought throughout but ultimately fell victim in the second half.
The Blue Devils dropped their third consecutive game to end the regular season Friday night, falling to No. 4 North Carolina 2-0 at Dorrance Field. The Tar Heels outshot Duke 12-8, eventually notching the game’s lone two goals in the second half. With the defeat, the Blue Devils head into the ACC tournament as the No. 4 seed of the South Region and will take on top-ranked Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals.
“We didn’t bring our A-game tonight, overall,” head coach John Kerr said. “You could say [previous] losses...were unfortunate and unlucky…. But tonight, we were the second best team.”
Both teams struggled to find their offensive spark through a scoreless, somewhat laborious first half. Play mostly rolled around in the middle, save for a few opportunities for North Carolina.
In the second half, however, things quickly changed. Tar Heel senior Lucas del Rosario carried the ball deep in the 56th minute, defeating a Duke defender in a one-on-one battle and crossing the ball perfectly across the field and in front of the goal, where fellow senior Giovanni Montesdeoca opened up the scoring on a header.
After that first goal, the Blue Devils simply couldn’t match North Carolina’s energy, with the Tar Heels putting constant pressure on Duke’s defense over the next 27 minutes before finally notching the insurance goal. Freshman Akeim Clarke got the ball in the box, assisting senior Taff Wadda for the score.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that pure desperation played a large part in keeping the final score relatively narrow, with countless shots blocked at the last possible second by Duke defenders.
Not all was to be scorned though. Senior goaltender Will Pulisic was a standout, coming up big in some crucial moments to keep his team in the game.
Freshman Peter Stroud, ever the hustler, played all 90 minutes and never let up the pressure on the Tar Heel defenders. Where Stroud really shines is in the middle of the field, where he is often working harder than anyone else.
Finally, sophomore Scotty Taylor brought some much-needed offensive momentum when he entered the game late in the first half, leading the team with two shots.
The ACC tournament looms around the corner, and this game proved that the Blue Devils have a lot they need to work on to be competitive against the undefeated Panthers in the quarterfinals next Sunday.
“In the final third, we didn't create as many opportunities as we have been,” Kerr said. “We’ve got to get a little bit more dynamic…and create more opportunities.”
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