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Eliot Hamill shines for Duke men's soccer in a defensive stalemate against UNC-Wilmington

Hamill made multiple key saves down the stretch for the Blue Devils.
Hamill made multiple key saves down the stretch for the Blue Devils.

Junior goalkeeper Eliot Hamill was Duke mens’ soccer’s savior Friday night, coming up in the clutch and making four key saves in the second half and overtime to preserve the clean sheet. 

Nonetheless, the Blue Devils watched yet another action-packed game go to double-overtime with nothing to show for it, with their match against UNC-Wilmington ending in a 0-0 tie.

As has been the case nearly every game this season, head coach John Kerr rolled out a new starting lineup, this time featuring seven freshmen. Among the most notable of the freshmen was JT Harms starting at goalkeeper instead of Hamill.

But at halftime, Kerr decided to switch Hamill back in.

Kerr said that while he was happy with the performance of both goalkeepers, he decided to go with the more experienced goalie over the final stretch because of the pressure the Seahawks applied to the Blue Devil defense in the first half.

Hamill had his first test early on in the second period, when a botched contest by a Blue Devil defender left Hamill in a one-on-one with Seahawks forward Jacob Evans. The latter won a 50-50 ball and had a clear path to the goal, but poked his touch a little too far, allowing Hamill to clean it up without issue. 

Hamill native didn’t stop there, though, as he notched two impressive saves down the stretch that robbed the visitors of what appeared to be easy opportunities to break open the score. The second of these came in the 77th minute, when UNC-Wilmington’s Parker Norris found himself with a shot just outside the 18-yard box and sent a screamer on goal before Hamill made a spectacular diving save.

Duke (2-7-2) faced a scare in the 81st minute when the Seahawks put the ball in the back of the net off of a corner, only to have it called back due to a foul away from the ball. Both defenses held strong from there, leading to a third straight overtime matchup for the Blue Devils.

UNC-Wilmington forward Cannon Tootle came alive in the first overtime period, taking advantage of a fatigued Duke defense to create some dangerous opportunities. Fortunately for the Blue Devils, Hamill’s heroics continued, making multiple pivotal stops in gut-wrenching situations.

The final chance for Duke came as freshman Nick Pariano had a look with no defenders in sight halfway through the second overtime, but he pushed his left-footed shot just wide of the post, keeping the game scoreless.

Defense was the story of the contest early on, as the two teams traded possessions with neither having many serious looks on goal. Despite the rain-soaked ground and waterlogged ball, neither squad hesitated to send the long ball, though both defenses cleaned up well in the defending third. 

Despite the score showing zeroes, UNC-Wilmington (2-0-1) undoubtedly had more offensive success in the first half, with six shots compared to Duke’s three.

“We were chasing our tails,” Kerr said of the Blue Devils in the first half. ”We had to change our attitude at halftime.” 

In the second half, Duke came out more aggressive. In the 55th minute, junior Ian Murphy played a lofted through ball to freshman Thorleifur Ulfarsson at the front, giving him a look at a tough volley, but Ulfarsson came up just wide.

Six minutes later, captain Jack Doran pulled off a shot from a tough angle toward the bottom left of the net, but Seahawks keeper Gabriel Perrotta had little trouble corralling it.

In addition to Hamill, another standout for Duke was freshman midfielder Peter Stroud, who controlled the pace of the game throughout and set up multiple scoring chances. Stroud entered the season as one of the top recruits in the country, and was one of the multitude of freshman starters Friday.

Kerr had only good things to say about his freshmen, saying he’s been impressed with how they’ve been “learning on the job” after being “thrown in the deep end” many times this season. 

This game marked the second double-overtime draw of the Blue Devils’ first three matchups of the spring. Duke will look to start cashing in on its offensive opportunities when it plays at Virginia Tech next Saturday.

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