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Robbie Church’s Duke women’s soccer: the great NCAA tournament overachievers

Head coach Robbie Church has only missed the NCAA tournament twice in his 20 years at the helm.
Head coach Robbie Church has only missed the NCAA tournament twice in his 20 years at the helm.

This is part two of a series looking back at Duke women’s soccer head coach Robbie Church’s 20-year tenure. Read part one on his approach to team-building and impact on program culture here.

Twenty years, 18 NCAA tournaments, 43 tournament wins, three College Cups.

Robbie Church has been the head coach of Duke women's soccer for two decades, and has established the Blue Devils as not only a perennial November threat, but the premier tournament team. Across Church’s 20 years, Duke has knocked off a higher-ranked squad in over a third of its tournament appearances—including making the Elite Eight as an unranked team in 2007 and 2013 and becoming the runner-up as a three-seed in 2015—and has been upset just three times—by a total of two goals.

Overall, in Church's 20 years, Duke has:

  • Missed the tourney just twice
  • Been unranked (i.e. ranked outside the top 16) eight times, and only once since 2014 and twice since 2010 
  • Been a three-seed seven times
  • Been a one-seed twice

As a three-seed, the Blue Devils have made it to at least the quarterfinals five times, and have made it to the College Cup both times they’ve been a one-seed.

Duke has played 10 teams multiple times in Church’s 18 tournaments, and has:

  • A losing record against just two of those ten (UCLA & Penn State)
  • Swept four of them
  • Upset a No.2-seed Florida three times

Against conference opponents (at the time of that tournament), the Blue Devils under Church have a 6-2 record, and a 7-3 record against teams that are currently in the ACC.

In the 18 tournaments that Church has coached, Duke has advanced to at least the Elite Eight in half of them, including a span from 2011 to 2017 in which the Blue Devils reached at least that round in each of their tournaments. And from 2010 to 2018, Duke never finished worse than the Sweet Sixteen in tournaments it entered.

The tournament expanded to 64 teams in Church’s first year in Durham, and Duke’s 2017 second-round 7-0 beatdown of No. 17 Oklahoma State is still tied for the biggest margin of victory in at least the second round of this era.

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