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No. 4 Duke women’s soccer drops first home game of the season to N.C. State

Head coach Robbie Church must get his team back on track or Duke is in danger of missing the ACC tournament.
Head coach Robbie Church must get his team back on track or Duke is in danger of missing the ACC tournament.

For the first time since 2000, Duke lost to N.C. State.

Coming into the night, the Wolfpack had dropped five straight games, including four ACC contests. Each loss was decided by a single goal and four of the losses had come against ranked teams. 

The Blue Devils, on the other hand, were coming off a 2-0 win against Syracuse and were returning sophomore Olivia Migli and freshman Michelle Cooper to the lineup after each had missed three consecutive games due to health safety protocols. 

But all that wasn’t enough for the Blue Devils as Duke found themselves on the wrong side of a one-goal differential, falling to N.C. State 2-1 in double-overtime at Koskinen Stadium, marking their first loss at home since a Sept. 2020 matchup against North Carolina

“We have to accept early in the season, we had some really, really good wins,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “Now we have to look in the mirror and say, ‘Okay, we're not playing as well as we were playing before.’ And what is that—[a] lack of focus, lack of concentration? We gave balls away way too much today. We had really good opportunities to score goals, and we have to score goals.”

But the goals weren’t coming against the Wolfpack, continuing a concerning offensive trend for the Blue Devils (8-2-1, 2-2-1 in the ACC). In its last five games, Duke has put up just five total goals. In the five games prior to that, Duke had put up 17.

Despite the recent lack of scoring, the Blue Devils still had an opportunity to put this one away and pick up the conference win. At the end of regulation plus an overtime period, the score remained knotted at 1-1, after a second-half score from both teams, and a second 10-minute overtime loomed—Duke’s second game this season to go into extra time.

The second period saw an immediate shift from the first, which had seen the teams trade throw-ins and fouls, rather than shots and saves. Twenty-three seconds in, a Tess Boade cross from just inside the penalty area found sophomore midfielder Nicky Chico in the center of the goal box. But Chico’s deflection toward the goal didn’t have the necessary angle, and the N.C. State goalkeeper Maria Echezarreta made her third and final save of the evening. 

A minute later, the Blue Devils put up their second shot of the period, this time a Boade shot off a Delaney Graham cross, but Boade sent it high. Duke saw two more shots in extra time, both from Boade, but as time wound down, it looked like the Blue Devils were going to pick up their second draw of the season. 

That is, until the Wolfpack picked up possession with 30 seconds to go. Sophomore Jameese Joseph made a solo run into the Duke box and, with 19 ticks remaining on the clock, slid a shot past Blue Devil goalkeeper Ruthie Jones into the corner of the net, handing N.C. State (5-6-2, 1-4-0) its first ACC win of the season on a golden goal. Despite outshooting the Wolfpack by 15, the Blue Devils found themselves stunned on their home field.

“This could be a real turning point for us, in a positive way,” Church said. “How do we react from this? All these teams want to get a win from us, because we're highly ranked, and it helps their resumé, pushes them back towards the NCAA picture. We have to understand that. This is the ACC—this is the grind of the season. Nobody in this league gives anybody anything. You have to earn it every night—you have to come out and play and deserve to win and we haven't really done that lately.”

After a first half that didn't see a single shot on goal from Duke and had included more Blue Devil fouls than Blue Devil shots, the second half held more action for the fans in attendance. Just two-and-a-half minutes in, senior Mackenzie Pluck picked up her third assist in three games when she found Boade on a through-ball near the top of the penalty area. A short Boade run and a nutmeg of the goalkeeper later, and Duke found itself with the lead. 

But it was a short-lived one. A little over five minutes later, after a reset on their own corner, N.C. State sent a ball into the box that found an unmarked Annika Wohner, who easily directed the ball toward the right-side netting for the score and pulled up her jersey to reveal the Superwoman symbol in her celebration afterward. 

The rest of the second half proceeded without much threat from the Wolfpack and eight more shots from the Blue Devils, but with just one of those on goal. In the end, it didn’t matter.

Now, looking forward, Duke is in danger of missing out on the ACC tournament—which will feature just six teams this year—despite being ranked No. 4 in the country. After the loss to N.C. State and wins from the three teams directly below them in the standings, they find themselves at ninth in the conference standings and on the outside looking in. So, with their next contest quickly approaching—a Sunday afternoon matchup with Pittsburgh back at Koskinen—the Blue Devils have to rediscover their identity that made them so dangerous through the first seven games of the season.

“We're very capable of winning all the games on our schedule,” Church said. “But we have to look inside of us—staff, players, and answer the questions. Great teams will make adjustments, great teams will come out with determination, and great teams will make that change. This is not the end of the world.”

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