CLEMSON, S.C.—Duke traveled to Clemson in pursuit of its first ACC win Saturday in its first-ever matchup against the previously unranked Tigers. It would leave Historic Riggs field empty-handed, falling to Clemson 11-10 in a tight matchup that saw five lead changes and the largest gap being just three goals.
Despite a 5-0 scoring run that spanned the first and second quarters, the Blue Devils were unable to bust it open and create more separation in the second half. Slowly but surely, Clemson clawed back, scoring the go-ahead goal with 2:31 left to play and sending then-No. 13 Duke home 0-3 in conference play.
“I think the third quarter really hurt us … I think we got really impatient and antsy on offense,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel.
The Tigers struck first, jumping out to an early 3-1 lead, but Duke (4-3, 0-3 in the ACC) was able to adjust and finish the first quarter at an even 3-3 thanks to goals from junior attacker Katie DeSimone and sophomore midfielder Kerry Nease. An impressive display on both sides of the ball from senior midfielder Olivia Carner, who converted a turnover on defense into a score at the other end, also helped the visitors.
The Blue Devils took the lead in the second quarter and were able to hold Clemson (7-2, 1-2 in the ACC) scoreless for nearly 15 minutes – from 5:01 in the first to 5:18 in the second. Duke’s offense continued to spread the ball around, with its four goals in the second quarter all coming from different players. Three of those goals were assisted.
This included a lob from Eva Greco behind the cage to Maddie Jenner, who used her height to snatch the ball out of the air and put it in the back of the net, a play Duke fans have seen from her many times before. Greco also earned a goal of her own, assisted by Caroline DeBellis, who scored as well.
Clemson scored twice in the last five minutes of the half, broken up by a shifty goal from Duke’s Lexi Schmalz unassisted. Duke headed into half up 7-5 looking to extend its lead in the remaining 30 minutes.
The third quarter is when the pace of the game began to change for the Blue Devils.
“I just felt like we didn't make them play defense for long enough stretches to give us an opportunity to capitalize where we wanted to capitalize,” Kimel said.
A great take by Carner hit the post in the opening minute of the third, and that unlucky play seemed to define the rest of the quarter. Bad shots plagued the Blue Devils’ offense: Clemson goalkeeper Emily Lamparter was only forced to make a play on three of them. Despite winning four draw controls to Clemson’s one in the frame, imprecise shots from the Blue Devils gave the Tigers opportunities to capitalize on the other end and tie the game at 8-8 going into the fourth quarter.
“In those moments where things are tight or we're not feeling great, we've got to be able to stay calm, composed and execute better than we did today,” Kimel said.
Senior Cubby Biscardi led the defense with five ground balls, three caused turnovers and five draw controls, but the Blue Devils’ offense was unproductive at the other end. They scored just three goals on 11 shots in the second half.
Clemson scored on the first play of the fourth quarter, recapturing the lead for the first time since 2:16 in the first quarter. However, Duke was not finished yet. Two goals in under two minutes from DeBellis and DeSimone gave Duke the lead back 10-9 with five minutes to play. A timely save from Lamparter allowed Clemson’s offense to get to work, and two clutch goals in a row from freshman attacker Sofia Chepenik gave Clemson the lead. Duke was unable to execute on its last possession with 1:15 to go, turning the ball over and allowing Clemson to clear and run the clock out to escape with a narrow 11-10 victory.
The win for the Tigers, playing in their inaugural season is their first against an ACC or ranked opponent.
“Not coming out with the win is obviously not a great feeling. But we have a big game Tuesday that we're getting ready for,” Biscardi said.
The Blue Devils will look to snap their two-game losing streak when they take on Yale at home Tuesday at 7 p.m.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.