DURHAM, N.C. – On a chilly Sunday afternoon in Durham, N.C., freshman Ella Stevens tallied her 10th goal of the season to send the third-seeded and 14th-ranked Duke women’s soccer team in to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship with a 1-0 win over Northwestern at Koskinen Stadium.
With the victory, Duke improves to 15-4-3 and will next travel to Morgantown, W.V., to take on top-seeded West Virginia, who advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals in penalty kicks, 4-2, over UCLA. The Blue Devils have now reached the elite eight for the fifth time out of the last six years and the 10th overall time in school history. Duke’s win was also the 15th straight at home in NCAA Tournament play.
Going up against a squad that had allowed only six goals all season, the Blue Devils tried to attack the Wildcat defense early in the first half. Northwestern (16-3-4) held strong and packed it in against Duke.
Although the Blue Devils attempted a total of 15 shots in the first half, Duke didn’t have many excellent scoring chances.
Freshman Olivia Erlbeck sent in a free kick, after a Wildcat foul in the 31st minute, but junior Imani Dorsey’s header just slipped wide right of the far post.
Then in the 33rd minute, the Blue Devils would feature a shot by Dorsey that was saved and senior Christina Gibbons had a shot blocked. Dorsey, who hails from Elkridge, Md., had another shot that was saved, but Northwestern’s Lauren Clem couldn’t hold on to the ball and Stevens punched in her 10th goal of the season off the rebound to give Duke a 1-0 lead at the 32:54 mark.
A product of Grayson, Ga., Stevens’ 10 goals now ranks tied second on the Duke freshman goals list along with Laura Weinberg (2010) and Sarah Friend (1989). Stevens is only one goal away from matching Kelly Cobb’s mark from the 2011 campaign.
At the half, Duke held a 15-0 shot advantage and a 1-0 lead. Dorsey and Stevens paced the Blue Devils with four shots each, while senior Toni Payne added two. A total of seven Duke student-athletes attempted shots.
The Blue Devils continued to pepper the Wildcat goal in the second half with shots by Ashton Miller, Erlbeck, Dorsey, Gibbons and Payne. Gibbons, who is from Raleigh, N.C., had the best Duke chance of the half as the senior blasted a right-footed attempt that was heading towards the far post, but Clem made a diving stop to her left to keep the Duke advantage, 1-0, in the 70th minute.
Northwestern nearly evened the scoreboard in the 74th minute as the Blue Devils were whistled for a foul close to the Duke bench. Mary Erikson sent a low ball on the ground into the goal area that scooted through and hit the far post and went outside the box.
The Blue Devils were able to hold off the Wildcats and take the 1-0 victory.
Proctor, who hails from Wilson, N.C., totaled her 10th shutout of the season and fifth career clean sheet in NCAA Championship play. Her five shutouts in NCAA action are now tied with Allison Lipsher for best in school history. Proctor’s 10 shutouts in 2016 also ranks third on Duke’s single season charts.
For the match, Duke held a 22-2 shot advantage led by a career-high eight from Dorsey.
The Blue Devil defense now owns 11 shutouts on the year to rank tied seventh on the Duke single season record books.
• Ella Stevens now owns a team-best five game-winning goals, which ranks second all-time for a Duke freshman in school history.
• EJ Proctor now owns 21 career shutouts at Duke
• Robbie Church has led Duke to 15+ wins five times now over his 17 years at Duke
• The Blue Devils are now 8-4-2 all-time in NCAA Sweet 16 matches
• Moved to 9-2-3 on the season at home
• Duke’s defense has not given up more than a single goal in 10 straight NCAA Tournament contests (10-1-2)
• Ella Stevens’ 26 points this season now ranks fourth on the Duke freshman charts.