After slathering on sunscreen and stretching, the Blue Devils were ready for a sweltering afternoon game.
Dedicated fans gathered at Koskinen Stadium Sunday under the blazing heat of the sun to watch the Blue Devils once again dominate on the field. Following a 3-0 season opener win against Liberty Friday evening, the Blue Devils used aggressive offensive lines, persistent stamina and coordinated teamwork to earn a 4-0 win against Merrimack.
“Our pressing game has really emerged as a real weapon for us. We were able to put a lot of pressure on Liberty, as well as Merrimack, and force turnovers in their third of the field,” head coach John Kerr said about their recent victories. “It’s allowed us to get some really good opportunities, and we scored on a couple of them, which has been really good.”
While Merrimack (0-2) kicked off the first half, the Blue Devils (2-0) more than ended it. Barely six minutes into the game, sophomore midfielder Nick Pariano sent the ball soaring into the Warriors’ goal after being awarded a penalty kick, setting the tone for the rest of the contest.
Unfortunately for Merrimack, goalkeeper Alvaro Rodriguez’s distress was not alleviated over the course of the match. Freshman midfielder Felix Barajas proved to be an undeniable asset to the team and with barely a minute left in the first half, Barajas, freshman forward Jai Bean and senior defender Ian Murphy demonstrated some crafty footwork as they worked together to add another tally to the Duke scoreboard and get Barajas his first collegiate goal.
Duke’s final goal of the afternoon was also courtesy of Barajas, assisted by sophomore midfielder Luke Thomas. After bouncing the ball off the right goal post, Barajas became an embodiment of the age-old adage “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Barajas, with the help of Thomas, sent the ball soaring into the top left corner of Merrimack’s goal.
“I know it’s been a good start for us, but we still have a long way to go,” said Kerr of his team’s performance this weekend.
The two teams experienced high levels of tension throughout the first half, as both teams looked to be out to prove that soccer is, in fact, a contact sport. Despite an endless stream of yellow cards and several fouls, both teams continued their assertive pursuit of the ball, often resulting in collisions.
The second half of the contest saw the tension between the Blue Devils and the Warriors culminate into a scuffle between Duke junior forward Scotty Taylor and Merrimack senior midfielder Stefano Pesenti. After the race to the net resulted in a tumble, elbows and fists flew in several directions, and both players were given red cards.
“Obviously disappointing…It was a shame for both players to be sent off,” Kerr said about the incident. “I feel bad for both players, and obviously really bad for Scotty because he has to miss out on the Michigan game on Thursday.”
This week, the Blue Devils will hit the road to take on Michigan next Thursday at 7 p.m.
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