ChronSports' Top 10 of 2022 — No. 5: Duke men’s soccer completes undefeated regular season before deep NCAA tournament run

Duke's Ruben Mesalles leaps for the header during Duke's Oct. 14 win over Notre Dame.
Duke's Ruben Mesalles leaps for the header during Duke's Oct. 14 win over Notre Dame.

As 2022 comes to a close, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest stories of the year in Duke athletics. Each day, we will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year for the Blue Devils. 

Coming in at No. 5: Duke men's soccer made history in the regular season before stringing together a deep NCAA tournament run. For the full list, click here.

It was the season of soccer in Durham. As students gathered to watch the winter edition of the World Cup divided by the different countries they supported, they found common ground in Koskinen Stadium, where every Blue Devil cheered on the same soccer team making its way through a season to remember.

John Kerr’s 15th season as Duke’s head coach featured an undefeated streak through the 15 games that made up the regular season. At 11-0-4, the Blue Devils proved their merits on the field and ended the season as the No. 3 team in the nation.

Ranked No. 12 in the preseason and stacked with talent—both returning and fresh—the Blue Devils looked ahead to a good season. After just a few games, however, this forecast proved wrong; it would not be a good season for Duke, but a great one.

Matches came and went, but the losses never did. Game after game, the Blue Devils held off their opponents, exhibiting polished defensive work that no team could break through. Defense was the key to Blue Devil victory, as a deeply talented midfield and defensive lineup held opponents scoreless so that a few successful strokes from star attacker Shakur Mohammed’s right foot were typically enough for a Duke victory.

The primary force propelling Duke through its season was its vast cast of characters. Talent reigned on this year’s roster, starring ACC Offensive Player of the Year Mohammed, who started in all 19 of Duke’s games and racked up 10 goals in the process. 

Supporting Mohammed from the midfield were juniors Peter Stroud and Nick Pariano, both of whom pulled more than their weight on the field. Stroud earned ACC Midfielder of the Year at season’s end, making him the first player to earn the title back-to-back, and was named one of three finalists for the MAC Hermann Trophy. Pariano, for his part, took command of Blue Devil corner kicks, controlling these scoring opportunities and setting his team up for success.

Behind this all-star midfield, freshman defenders Kamran Acito and Axel Gudbjornsson protected the box all season. The duo ran constant interference in front of goalkeeper Eliot Hamill, a graduate student rounding out his fifth and final year as a Blue Devil. Hamill, the ACC Goalkeeper of the Year, was monolithic at the posts, posting 12 clean sheets in 19 games and saving 84.5% of shots on goal for the season.

The ACC tournament was not Duke’s moment, but a loss against Clemson in the conference quarterfinals did not discourage the Blue Devils from a deep run in the NCAA tournament. After a first-round bye, No. 7-seed Duke first took the field against Denver, winning 3-1 to knock the Pioneers out of the bracket. The following round was another victory, this time a slim 1-0 defeat of FIU via a corner-kick conversion from senior forward Scotty Taylor.

Duke’s last game of the year was a nail-biter against Creighton in the Elite Eight. The Bluejays managed to send three goals past Hamill to end the Blue Devils’ season, and the loss marked a melancholy end to a memorable run.

Mohammed and Stroud were first-team selections by both TopDrawerSoccer and College Soccer News, while ACC Freshman of the Year Acito and fellow freshman Kenan Hot garnered their own first-year honors. Mohammed waved goodbye to Duke after the season, becoming the No. 2 selection in the MLS SuperDraft to Orlando City SC.

Kerr’s tenure with the Blue Devils has been successful, taking a turn for the better in recent years. This season’s team performed better than the last, making it through an extra round of the NCAA tournament before falling out. Its undefeated regular season was a testament to Duke’s strength and consistency, and a welcome sign moving forward for Kerr and the Blue Devils.

READ MORE on Duke men's soccer's postseason run:

KERR-FECTION: No. 3 Duke men's soccer downs Virginia Tech on the road to cap undefeated regular season

BLUEJAY BLUES: Duke men's soccer knocked out of NCAA tournament at home by Creighton

Heartbreaking Elite Eight loss to Creighton forces Duke men's soccer to bid farewell to special season

Duke men's soccer's Stroud, Hamill, Mohammed and Acito collect top ACC awards

No. 4 Duke men's soccer ends No. 1 Wake Forest's undefeated season on the road

'Soccer with a purpose': Duke men’s soccer’s Peter Stroud embodies a generation hoping to reinvent the American game

Sophie Levenson profile
Sophie Levenson | Sports features editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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