Midway through the first half, freshman Nick Pariano scored the Blue Devils’ first goal of the spring season with a breakaway snipe from the right side. His teammates jumped on him and cheers erupted from the bench as the entire team exhaled.
After failing to notch a goal in any of their first three games of the spring season, anticipation for when one would finally sneak past the goalie was high in Blacksburg, Va., this past Saturday.
And finally, Duke snapped its scoreless streak with a decisive 4-2 win against Virginia Tech.
“We knew it was gonna happen, we just didn’t know when, and we were anxious to get off to a good start today,” head coach John Kerr said. “And luckily and happily we did.”
Throughout the spring, Duke (3-7-2, 1-0 in the ACC) has done a solid job of getting to the box, but executing in the final third of the field has been a weak spot. The goal from Pariano opened the floodgates, though, and less than two minutes later senior Daniel Wright scored with a sneaky rebound after Pariano hit the crossbar on an almost identical play as the first goal.
The Blue Devils couldn’t relax quite yet, however, as the Hokies answered quickly with a goal from leading scorer Jacob Labovitz. Nevertheless, Duke’s defense buckled down from there.
Goalie Eliot Hamill came up big with five saves, and his exemplary work in clearing balls net front from the Blue Devil defensemen relieved some of the offensive pressure Virginia Tech (4-3-2, 0-1) put on Duke. Furthermore, one of the Blue Devils’ biggest strengths of the game was capitalizing on the Hokies' mistakes and getting the ball across center field for a chance of their own.
And that’s how the third goal happened. After forcing a Virginia Tech turnover and getting the ball across center field with clean passes and footwork, freshman Thorleifur Ulfarsson sent the ball into the box, where senior Nicolas Macri headed the ball into the back of the net.
Duke’s fourth goal came just a minute and a half after Macri’s score. Freshman Peter Stroud, dubbed the “Energizer Bunny” by Kerr, picked the ball up off a throw in and outran a defender to get to the box, where he passed the ball across to senior Stephen O’Connell for the finish.
While the Hokies scored one more goal, it wasn’t enough to overcome the commanding lead Duke had built, and the Blue Devils went home with a win.
“Today's victory wasn't an accident,” Kerr said. “It wasn't that we just got lucky. We made it happen.”
Despite Duke’s solid play all season, it’s been unlucky with finishing games on top. The Blue Devils are leading the ACC with 77 corner kicks, but simply have been unable to convert on them.
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Saturday’s win against Virginia Tech could be the spark the team needed, but the work isn’t over yet. Duke will look to build off the victory against Notre Dame Friday in Koskinen Stadium.
“We're going to celebrate today, but tomorrow we're going to start analyzing and preparing for the next game, which will be a tough one,” Kerr said.