CARY, N.C.—You would think that on Friday the 13th, the Blue Devils would have the luck.
But Florida State must not be superstitious, powering past Duke 4-0 in the ACC tournament semifinals Friday evening at WakeMed Soccer Park.
"I thought we had a great game plan," Duke head coach Robbie Church said. "We created some opportunities. But one of the things we haven't done all year is get that big goal. At this level things go up, the intensity goes up, the speed of the game goes up, because teams are looking to play for championships. And a lot of our players haven't been, this group of players haven't been in that situation, when the game is just accelerated past what they're used to play, even during the regular season."
It was a physical affair in the first half, with a combined 17 fouls between the Blue Devils and Seminoles, 10 via Duke—more than it averages per an entire game. The Blue Devils found themselves down 1-0 at halftime, and despite having some chances on the offensive end, were lucky to be down just the one.
Duke (7-4-2, 4-2-2 in the ACC) has been a second-half team all season, however, so not all hope was lost. But as the final 45 minutes went on, it was just more of the top-seeded Seminoles making their mark in the box score.
Florida State (10-0, 8-0) has been one of the best set piece teams in the nation all season, and about 60 minutes into the match, it saw a string of three corner kicks come its way. And, as they say, the third time was the charm, with the ball ending up at the feet of Florida State’s Jaelin Howell, who easily tapped it in.
The Seminoles continued to pile it on, scoring again minutes after their second goal and again 10 minutes later, the four-goal deficit being the Blue Devils' worst loss all season. It was also the first time Duke had given up four goals since 2018.
"It's a great learning experience for us," Church said. "It's a humbling experience—that's not a 4-0 game. We had a choice—we could have sat back like a lot of teams do against Florida State, but that's not who we are. We play to win the game. The two goals on set plays is very, very disappointing. That took the wind out of our sails. But we got to learn from this game. It's a hump. Like I said earlier, it's a humbling experience. But the kids are tough, they're tough, and they'll be back. We'll be better for this."
The Blue Devils came out fast, with Paschall getting the start after scoring the winning goal against Clemson in the ACC quarterfinals, and it was clear she was on the hunt for another score. Just minutes into the game, she had a one-on-one opportunity with the Florida State goalie, but shot it low and saw it saved.
"I thought we were looking for that first goal," Church said. "That was so important. We needed that first goal in the first 20 minutes. And we talked about that a lot. We had some chances, Karlie had a break. And you know, I think she kind of got indecision at the end and she hit it near post with the goalkeeper."
From there, the Blue Devils saw their chances diminish, but luckily Florida State had not yet found its groove with Duke’s new 4-4-2 diamond formation causing some issues for the Seminoles' offense to begin the contest.
But after several near opportunities, the Seminoles broke through in the 30th minute. On a pass and run into the box where Duke’s back line found itself too far up, the Seminoles were able to play it into the left side, netting where Duke goalie Ruthie Jones had no chance to save it, giving them the 1-0 lead they would never relinquish.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
And so, after a tumultuous season, the Blue Devils found themselves going home disappointed and still searching for that signature win. The one bright spot is that a spring season is still in the cards, giving Duke another set of chances to find that win.
"We played Florida State twice. We played Carolina twice. We played Virginia once. This is the only game that kind of got away from us," Church said. "Everything else was close. So they're tough, gritty. They're competitive. But we got to get better as we go forward to the spring season."