As the saying goes, there’s no place like home.
No. 5 Duke showed out Wednesday in its first game in Koskinen Stadium since Oct. 9, hurdling past visiting Coastal Carolina by a final score of 6-0. The Blue Devils got three scores within the first 13 minutes from the forward duo of freshman Olivia Migli and junior Mackenzie Pluck and never looked back, taking a 5-0 lead into the half. The first-half outpour allowed head coach Robbie Church to rest his starters and field a whole new lineup in the final frame.
“We have more talent on the team than Coastal Carolina does. But what we wanted to do, mainly, was not have talent win the game,” Church said. “We wanted us to play, and play better. And I thought we played really, really well.”
“It was fun to be home, no question about it,” Church added.
The Blue Devils (9-4-2) struck early and often en route to the blowout victory, with Migli’s early play setting the tone. The freshman forward saw her first shot saved just 17 seconds into the game on a cross from senior right back Delaney Graham, and a little over a minute later missed the header wide left off the first of Duke’s 13 corner kicks.
Migli’s third shot proved the charm, however, opening up the scoring in the sixth minute with a top shelf finish from well beyond the box.
On a night in which a number of players produced in the box score, Pluck managed to particularly stand out, tying a career-high with two assists to go along with her score in the seventh minute. After breaking out for eight goals in her wildly successful 2019 campaign, Pluck’s unassisted goal Wednesday was her first of the 2020-21 season.
“I think Mackenzie Pluck is playing outstanding. I think her turning ability to run at players, her confidence right now, is extremely high. And we're just really, really proud,” Church said. “And she'll be the first to admit it—she didn't have a great fall. But she has really bounced back in the spring and she's a handful out there."
While Pluck and Migli certainly stood out, a number of Blue Devils found their way to the end of the rainbow on St. Patrick’s Day, with sophomore Sophie Jones, senior Tess Boade and junior Marykate McGuire all netting goals of their own and Graham totaling two assists from the back line. McGuire’s goal was her first since scoring twice in a 4-3 overtime win against Wake Forest in the fall opener.
Especially notable was Jones’ goal, as it marked the first-team All-ACC midfielder’s first score of her already decorated collegiate career. Despite a consistently high level of play that has Jones in the running for the prestigious Hermann Trophy as the best player in college soccer, the former Gatorade National High School Player of the Year had struggled to find the back of the net until Wednesday night.
“The one area we've talked to Sophie and the one area she knows she has to try to continue to get better is scoring goals and getting on that score sheet,” Church said. “So it's really good to see her score that goal tonight, because she's so good all over the field and she's good in the scoring area—she's just a couple of times been unlucky. But it was good to see that ball go in from her tonight.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the night was that 25 Blue Devils saw the field, with Church opting for a hockey-style line change at the break. Junior goalkeeper Holly Stam saw action for the first time this season, finishing off sophomore starter Ruthie Jones’ clean slate, and a number of other Blue Devils also made their season debuts.
Duke’s depth was on full display in the second half, with stellar play from McGuire, sophomore Emmy Duerr and freshman Grace Watkins all occupying the front third until the final whistle. While the pace of play was noticeably slower than in the first half and the intensity understandably fading, the second unit kept the pressure on in an impressive tour de force, yielding not a single shot on goal from Coastal Carolina (7-7) in the final 45 minutes.
The Blue Devils will have some time off before taking on No. 7 West Virginia on the road March 27. The two teams last faced off in Sept. 2017, with then-No. 11 Duke beating the then-third-ranked Mountaineers 4-0.
“I really like where we are right now,” Church said. “We've got 10 days to prepare. We got to be better than we are now for West Virginia. But really looking forward to taking that step forward and seeing exactly where this group is against a nationally ranked team.”
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Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.