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The Devil's in the details: Duke soccer teams tackle the NCAA tournament

Freshman Ruben Mesalles of Duke men's soccer has emerged as a standout on the pitch this season.
Freshman Ruben Mesalles of Duke men's soccer has emerged as a standout on the pitch this season.

They say the devil is in the details. But in Durham, the Blue Devils are in the details—and numbers.


Despite an expected goal margin of 2.3 for Duke to Old Dominion’s 0.1, Duke women's soccer took until the final 17 seconds to find its winning goal in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday night at Koskinen Stadium. Caitlin Cosme’s powerful 90th-minute freekick cannoned off the right post past a helpless Monarch goalkeeper, much to the ecstasy of Duke fans who have witnessed one of the program’s best seasons in recent memory. The Blue Devils thoroughly outplayed Old Dominion in spite of the scoreline, registering six shots on goal to the Monarchs’ zero. Sophomore Olivia Migli’s 51st-minute long range effort that clattered off the crossbar nearly gave Duke the lead, but ultimately freshman Michelle Cooper’s drawn freekick with 17 seconds left gave the Blue Devils the chance to advance, a chance they admirably took.


In Sunday’s ACC Championship game at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C., Duke men's soccer went down 1-0 after a fifth-minute blast from Notre Dame’s Dawson McCartney and were forced to laboriously chase the game for the next 85 minutes. Pushing for an equalizer is a notoriously difficult task in soccer and often leaves a team’s defense weaker as they throw everyone upfield. Duke learned this the hard way with their second-half attacking onslaught ultimately resulting in another concession. The Blue Devils were arguably the better team on the eye against the Irish, but they couldn’t find the breakthrough they needed to level the scores and bring a first conference title to Durham since 2006. Duke’s next test comes in the form of the Big Dance, the NCAA tournament, and hopes are they’ll be able to continue their remarkable season on the biggest stage and avenge Sunday’s disappointment.


With Friday’s win, Duke women’s soccer has improved their NCAA tournament home record  to a ridiculous 23-2-1. The Blue Devils only dropped one game at Koskinen Stadium during the regular season, an overtime 2-1 loss to NC State, and they have continued that impeccable run into the NCAA tournament. Now that fans are back in stadiums in full voice following the COVID-induced absences of 2020, home-field advantage is finally an advantage again. As a No. 1 seed, Duke will play at home through the quarterfinals before a potential trip to Santa Clara, Calif., for the semifinals and tournament final. If the Blue Devils’ remarkable vein of tournament form continues, Duke is only going to be scarier to face than they already are.


With the men’s NCAA tournament on the very near horizon, Monday’s selection show saw Duke clock in as the No. 7 overall seed and the recipient of an all-important first-round bye. The Blue Devils have bounced from unranked to third in the national RPI across the season and were the No. 3 seed for the ACC tournament, sitting only behind ACC Atlantic champion Clemson and ACC Coastal co-champions Pittsburgh. Despite coming up second-best in the conference championship game after defeating Clemson and Wake Forest, Duke sits as the ACC’s third-highest ranked representative in next week’s tournament. The conference features four programs in the top eight, with the Blue Devils only superseded by the fifth-seeded Panthers and fourth-seeded Fighting Irish. Wins over North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Louisville and Virginia have characterized an incredibly impressive season for the Blue Devils, who begin their postseason slate with a home clash against UCLA this Sunday, Nov. 2.

Andrew Long | Blue Zone editor

Andrew Long is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.


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