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No. 14 Duke women's soccer rebounds from midweek defeat, downs East Carolina

Striker Kat Rader challenges for the ball in Duke's win against East Carolina.
Striker Kat Rader challenges for the ball in Duke's win against East Carolina.

Under the bright lights Thursday night, two storybook villains were set to face off in a battle of fury. East Carolina entered the gates of hell, hoping to play with fire and conquer the underworld of Koskinen Stadium. Yet the swashbuckling Pirates learned a valuable lesson in combat – mess with the Devils of Durham, go up in a blaze of blue flame. 

No. 14 Duke earned a 2-0 win against the Pirates, redeeming itself after a crushing 4-0 loss to No. 2 Stanford last weekend. Sophomore Kat Rader was once more the hero of the day, adding her fourth goal of the season, while senior captain Katie Groff added another to put the game away.

“We felt we played hard,” said head coach Robbie Church. “I thought we competed. I thought we had a good mentality.”

It took less than 10 minutes for the Blue Devils (3-2) to begin sinking East Carolina’s ship. After an early attempt from Rader was blocked in a stunning save, the Stuart, Fla., native was fired up and ready to cash in. Sophomore Carina Lageyre got things going, firing a shot off a defender that deflected into the box. The Pirates (4-2-1) then found themselves walking the proverbial plank.

Rader took advantage of the opportunity, deftly settling the ball at her feet before looking up at East Carolina goalkeeper Maeve English. Picking her spot, the sophomore expertly placed the ball into the lower left corner of the net. With the goal, the phenom has officially scored in every home game of the season. More importantly, it was Duke’s fastest goal of the season.

“Kat’s done really well all year, scoring [in] four out of five games,” Church said. “We needed that first goal.”

It was Groff, however, that put the contest away in her signature fashion. The Pirates began to encroach on her squad as the first half wore on, nearly tying up the contest after senior Annabelle Abbott got a shot outside of the 18-yard box on a corner kick that nearly skated inside the left post. A statement needed to be made, and the Raleigh native was ready for her moment.

After winning a corner kick with just over five minutes to play in the first half, Groff took up her usual position at the back post. Sophomore Devin Lynch raised her hand from the corner flag, ready to serve the ball in. Luckily for the Blue Devils, the connection between the two would bear fruit as the senior headed in the cross to earn herself the brace. It also marked the second time that Lynch and Groff have combined for a corner kick goal this season. 

“Right when it went off [Lynch’s] foot, if lofted, it was in the air for a while,” Groff said. “I knew…if this ball ever gets to me, it’s going in. I just had a feeling. So I think Devin just knows that [if] she finds me, I’m going to do what I can and she does a great job.”

While the first half was full of fireworks, the second half petered out in comparison. Both teams fought to get real offensive opportunities as they fought for possession but struggled to string together legitimate threats. The Duke chances of old that existed in the first half were no longer appearing as the hellish fires turned to ash. 

It wasn’t until the 71st minute that the Blue Devils showed that a spark was still ablaze. Senior Grace Watkins dribbled toward the top of the box, attempting to slice and dice her defender on her way to the goal. While her dodges may not have been successful, the Manhattan Beach, Calif., native earned a free kick in dangerous territory. Enter Rader once more.

The sophomore star stepped up once more, lording over the free kick. Despite the look of determination on the forward’s face, her beautiful kick would not hit its target. The ball hit the crossbar, denying Rader her second tally of the evening.

Beyond the chance of Duke’s leading scorer, the half remained quiet. East Carolina only had one real look at goal before it was called offside, while the Blue Devils were within inches of a third goal but could not capitalize. 

“We’ve got to be better at holding the ball, keeping the ball … and keeping longer possessions,” Church said. “We can still be sharper … and still connect more.”

With ACC competition on the horizon, Duke will look to build on its win and take its devilish flames to new heights. Building on its confidence will be key as they look to prove they can win away from home.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Church said. “[But] we need to be able to learn to win on the road. That’s going to be important that we learned to win away from Koskinen Stadium.”

The Blue Devils are on the road to take on UNC Greensboro in a final showdown before they open conference play against Boston College.

Mackenzie Sheehy profile
Mackenzie Sheehy | Blue Zone editor

Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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