DURHAM, N.C. - The No. 2 Duke Blue Devils kicked off the season with a bang, defeating Delaware 6-1 in front of over 3,000 fans in Koskinen Stadium. Six different Blue Devils tallied goals on the evening as Duke gained win No. 400 for head coach John Rennie, who is stepping down at the end of the season.
The offensive output from Duke was staggering, as they scored six goals for the first time since Oct. 11, 2005, when they defeated No. 11 N.C. State, 6-0. This was the Devils most dominating victory since that triumph almost two years ago.
Leading the charge was preseason All-Americas Mike Grella and Michael Videira. Each star had one goal and one assist. Senior midfielder Joe Germanese and senior forward Paul Dudley also had a score and an assist a piece in the game. Senior midfielder Tomek Charowski and grad student forward (and Vanderbilt transfer) Joshua Medcalf both found the back of the net, and sophomore defender Josh Bienenfeld had one dish to round out the point-scoring for Duke.
“It’s a great start,” said Rennie. “Every game you play at that moment is the most important, so it’s this is great for us.”
The first 15 minutes of the game saw the Blue Devils getting a feel for the Blue Hens’ defense, and once that happened, there was no stopping Duke. Charowski scored on a left-footed blast from the left side on a beautiful cross from the middle by Grella. That play all started with an on-target throw-in from Germanese to Grella on the right side of midfield.
Less than one minute later, at 28:47, it was Germanese’s turn to strike paydirt. Dudley chipped the ball to Videira, who with his back to the goal at the top of the box headed it over to a streaking Germanese on the right side. Germanese put the ball across and into the lower left corner to make it 2-0. That would be the story at halftime, but the Blue Devils were only getting warmed up.
Seven minutes into the second frame, the Duke had a broken-up corner kick, which Bienenfeld retrieved on the left side about 35 yards out. He made a quick move up field and placed a perfect cross to Videira, who was making a move up the middle and slid into the ball to knock it in.
With just over 30 minutes remaining in the contest, Grella took over, dribbling the ball straight toward the goal. He took a hard shot, which Delaware goalkeeper Taylor Thames made a save on diving to his left, but the rebound came right back to Grella who finished it between two defenders for an unassisted tally.
Six minutes later, Germanese made a cross from the right side towards Dudley in front of the goal. The 6’-7” forward followed the ball and headed it in to increase the lead to 5-0.
Duke’s final goal came with 11:25 left in the match. Junior midfielder Brad Ramsey blasted an open shot from the left side of the top of the box that Thames made a nice save on. Medcalf, who had come into the game minutes before, had made a run up the middle and was in position to chip in the rebound to give the Blue Devils a 6-0 advantage.
With 4:44 remaining and all but one Duke starter out of the game, Blue Hen freshman midfielder Jon Scheer made a run down the left side unmarked. Junior forward Tolu Olowolafe knocked the ball from the center of the field past the Blue Devils line of defense, and Scheer shot the ball into the bottom right corner to dash the Blue Devils’ hopes of a shutout.
In the first meeting ever between the two squads, the Blue Devils outshot the Blue Hens, 33-10, and also had the advantage in corner kicks, 7-4. Duke begins the season 1-0, while Delaware starts out 0-1.
Thames did all he could in goal for the Hens, making eight saves while dealing with a blizzard of Duke offense.
Senior goalkeeper Justin Papadakis and the Duke defense were brilliant throughout the game. Papadakis played 75 minutes in gaining the victory, making two saves. Junior goaltender Brendan Fitzgerald came in to finish out the game and also made two saves.
22 of Duke’s 27 available players saw action on the evening, including appearances from three of the five freshmen. Freshman defender Christian Ibeagha got the start in place of the injured Tim Jepson, and was the only Blue Devil to play all 90 minutes.
“It was a good experience for me to come in and do my job,” said Ibeagha. “We have very high expectations this season, so starting out like this was very important to us. Hopefully Timmy [Jepson] gets healthy and gets back in soon to help out the team.”
“Christian is everything we hoped and expected him to be,” added Rennie. “He has come through incredibly well and is just a great player. He has to be as good a freshman as there is in the country.”
The Blue Devils improved to 24-4-1 under Rennie in season openers. It was the seventh consecutive season opener for the Blue Devils without a loss. A 2-1 defeat to St. John’s to start the 2000 season was the last time Duke lost in its opener.
Duke will play again on Sunday when they host a 7 p.m. contest with Valparaiso University in Koskinen Stadium. On Fri., Sept. 7, and Sun., Sept. 9, the 26th annual Duke/adidas Classic will be held on campus with four games featuring four teams. Duke takes on Villanova at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and No. 19 Saint Louis at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday. Admission to all regular season men’s soccer games is free.