DURHAM, N.C. –Senior Toni Payne scored two second half goals to propel the third-seeded Duke women’s soccer team to a 3-1 victory over Illinois State (14-6-3) Friday evening in the second round of the NCAA Championship from Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C.
The 14th-ranked Blue Devils (14-4-3) moved on to face Northwestern (16-2-4) Sunday, Nov. 20 at 2 p.m., in the third round, after the Wildcats downed SIUE, 1-0, earlier Friday. The third round match will be aired live on ACC Network Extra.
“I was very, very happy,” Duke head coach Robbie Church commented about the win. “This team wants to win. You can see the hunger. You can see it in their play. I really like the place our team is in now. I like the passion. We are still growing, still coming together. This is not the end. We have bought ourselves at least two more days.”
The Blue Devils moved their streak to 14 matches in a row without a loss at home in NCAA Tournament play.
Duke opened the match firing at the Illinois State goal early and often.
The Blue Devils had their first opportunity less than four minutes in as a cross was sent into the box where senior Lizzy Raben and sophomore Chelsea Burns had chances, but couldn’t get it past Redbirds goalkeeper Haley Smith.
Junior Imani Dorsey would go on to attempt the next five shots. The first and second were along the near post where Illinois State had a team save on the first shot and then the second slipped just wide right.
After a corner kick by Dorsey was sent into the box in the 29th minute, junior Ashton Miller was able to get her foot on two shots but was not the best of contact in front of the goal. Both attempts were saved by Smith as she made a diving stop to not let the ball cross the line.
A free kick by Miller in the 35th minute was placed perfect to a leaping Raben, but her header went high over the crossbar. A product of Raleigh, N.C., Gibbons then attempted a right-footed shot in the 38th minute, but Smith made a diving stop to her right to keep the score, 0-0.
At the end of the first 45 minutes, the match remained 0-0 with the Blue Devils holding an 18-1 shot advantage. Dorsey led the way with six attempts, including four on goal, while Miller added four and Raben two.
Smith was outstanding in goal with seven saves for Illinois State.
Duke came out in the second half the way it started the first stanza and finally connected on its first goal of the night. Dorsey played a great through-ball from midfield to Payne, who hails from Birmingham, Ala. Payne streaked ahead and beat Smith, before heading towards the right side of the box. She was able to slip her shot in-between two Redbird defenders and into the back of the net to give the Blue Devils a 1-0 lead at the 47:36 mark.
“I think just especially knowing this time that any game we play could be my last game, so just putting in the extra effort, the extra fight to make it all the way to the end,” said Payne. “I am just trying to play for my fellow seniors and everyone else. We don’t want to be a one-time team.”
The goal for Payne was the second in as many matches and was her fifth career in NCAA action.
The Blue Devils kept attacking the Illinois State defense, which included Miller hitting the crossbar from long range, but couldn’t put the Redbirds away.
On Illinois State first corner kick of the match in the 75th minute, the Blue Devils failed to clear the ball out of the box and Brooke Ksiazek somehow got the ball into the back of the net through a group of players to even the match, 1-1.
Duke didn’t hold its head down, but instead came back and scored its second goal of the match in less than three minutes.
Payne was at it again as she took a ball in the midfield and dribbled to the top of the box, before finishing a shot at the right post to give the Blue Devils a 2-1 lead.
It marked the second two-goal performance of the season for Payne and ninth overall goal of the 2016 campaign. The 5-4 forward now owns six career NCAA Tournament tallies and 16 career points in the NCAA Tournament, all of which have come during her junior and senior seasons. Payne’s 16 points in NCAA play now ranks third all-time in Duke history.
“Toni is a senior,” said Church. “She doesn’t want her career to end. The goals are so important obviously, but just look at the other things she’s doing -- working off the ball, working defensively. She’s got another gear that she’s shown in the tournament. Every time it’s a big game, you know Toni Payne is going to come and play. She’s a big game player.”
The Blue Devils were not done as 94 seconds later junior Casey Martinez showed why she is one of the best players on the team at taking set pieces. Martinez, who is from Towson, Md., stepped up on a free kick and bent a right to left shot into the top, right corner to put the match away, 3-1.
“I was just thinking be confident and go up and strike it just like I do in practice,” commented Martinez. “Luckily and by the grace of God it went it. It’s amazing to step up for my team. I want to do it for them and put them in the best scenario possible. It is just survive and advance, we get one more day together."
Martinez’s goal was the second of the season, but continues her stellar play in NCAA Tournament action. Last season she totaled four assists during Duke’s run to the NCAA Championship match.
“I think we responded pretty well, knowing that we are fine and not going to panic,” commented Payne. “Knowing that the opportunities were good and just a little bit of composure and we would finish it.”
“She [Martinez] works very hard in practice, and every time it’s in the back of the net. We knew that when she stepped up she was going to finish it."
For the match, Duke held a 27-2 shot advantage led by six each from Dorsey and Miller.
Junior EJ Proctor finished the night with one save in goal for the Blue Devils, while Smith collected nine saves over 90 minutes of play.
“When you’re in the final 16, everybody's had great years and you only have really good teams that are standing now,” said Church. “We look forward to that challenge on Sunday afternoon.”
• Duke’s defense has not allowed more than one goal in NCAA Tournament play over the last nine matches.