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. 6: Duke women's soccer made a strong postseason run to cap another season among the nation's best. For the full list, click here.
On Black Friday, Duke played in its third Elite Eight in as many seasons, this time as the No. 2 seed in a road matchup against No. 1-seed Alabama. And while the Blue Devils fell short of a College Cup berth with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Crimson Tide, they strung together another elite season, once again coming within striking distance of the ultimate goal.
Along their path to that fateful night in the NCAA tournament, the Blue Devils experienced all the highs and lows that one might expect of a highly ranked team looking to navigate the country’s toughest conference. Duke began its season in August as the nation's No. 2 team, and in the first month alone, tallied both thrilling road wins over TCU and Tennessee and deflating home losses to North Carolina and UCLA. The Bruins and Tar Heels would eventually meet in the national championship game Dec. 5.
In ACC play, Duke started off 5-1, setting up a road showdown at Florida State with the two sides tied atop the conference table. The Seminoles ran away with a 5-1 win on their home field, sentencing the Blue Devils to an away rematch at Virginia—the team that handed them their first loss of conference play—to begin the ACC tournament.
The Blue Devils broke through against the Cavaliers, advancing 2-1 to set up a semifinal rematch against North Carolina in Cary, N.C. What followed was both an instant classic and a heartbreaker for the Blue Devils: The crosstown rivals followed up 110 minutes of scoreless, physical, red-card-filled soccer with a tense penalty shootout, with the Tar Heels moving on 7-6 in the end.
Before meeting Alabama, Duke played some of its best soccer to date in the first three rounds at Koskinen Stadium, racing past Radford 4-0, taking down Texas 1-0 on Katie Groff’s 88th-minute header and defeating South Carolina to reach the quarterfinals behind sophomore forward Michelle Cooper’s brace.
Cooper was the undeniable star of Duke’s near-College Cup run, following up her ACC Freshman of the Year campaign from 2021 by earning ACC Offensive Player of the Year honors in November. Cooper led the league and greater Power 5 in goals (19) and points (49) and was especially impressive in the postseason, tallying six goals on three braces in four NCAA tournament games. When the Blue Devils trailed 2-0 with less than 20 minutes remaining against the Crimson Tide, Cooper summoned one last heroic sequence, scoring in the 76th and 79th minutes to even the score in the biggest of moments.
The season was the last as a Blue Devil for Cooper, who announced Dec. 5 her intention to forgo her remaining eligibility and pursue a professional career. Days later, she became the first Duke player to be named a finalist for the prestigious MAC Hermann Trophy, awarded annually to the sport’s top player.
Another bright spot for the Blue Devils in 2022 was the play of freshman forward Kat Rader, who followed in Cooper’s footsteps as Duke’s second-straight ACC Freshman of the Year. Rader scored 12 goals (five game-winning) to lead all conference freshmen and is set to assume an even larger role in 2023.
The outlook for 2023 remains bright for the Blue Devils. Head coach Robbie Church welcomes another strong class featuring the Nos. 8, 13 and 19 overall recruits and returns a talented group that no doubt remains hungry for that elusive ticket to the College Cup.
READ MORE on Duke women's soccer's postseason run:
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Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.