DURHAM, N.C. – For the first time since 2005, the Duke women’s soccer team has won an Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship match as the fourth-ranked and top-seeded Blue Devils blanked eighth-seeded Virginia Tech, 1-0, on Sunday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium.
Duke advances to the semifinals of the ACC Championship, which will take place on Friday, Nov. 4 at 5:30 p.m., against fifth-seeded and seventh-ranked Wake Forest at 5:30 p.m., on ESPN3. It will be played at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. The Demon Deacons downed fourth-seeded and 14th-ranked Boston College on Sunday afternoon.
“Overall, this is one of our best wins of the year, because I knew this was going to be a really tough game,” said Duke Head Coach Robbie Church. “Virginia Tech is a really good team -- RPI 22 in the country. We had such a short turnaround. To win the game is such a huge accomplishment for the girls with the type of turnaround and what we accomplished. This is the first time through this with this program and everyone is coming out and shooting for us as we could see in that game.”
With the victory, the Blue Devils improved to 17-2-1 on the year and matches a school record with 17 wins. Duke also set a new school record with its 14th shutout of the season.
“At this stage of the year, all you want to do is win and advance,” commented Church. “It doesn’t have to be the prettiest thing you have had all year. It is the first time in the last six years that we are playing in the semifinals of the tournament. So we are excited to be in Cary, we are very excited.”
The Blue Devils opened on the attack from the start as sophomore Kaitlyn Kerr had a shot blocked in the first two minutes of the match. Following a Hokie foul at the 23-yard mark, sophomore Mollie Pathman fired a shot into the box that got knocked around. Sophomore Laura Weinberg then tapped it to freshman Kelly Cobb who punched it inside the left post for her team-leading 10th tally of the season.
“I think we know what is on the line,” said Cobb on the early goal. “The regular season is done and we are into tournament time. It is either win or go home. We came out to win today and I think it showed with the character of the players we have on this team -- we came out hard.
Duke snapped a streak of five matches without scoring a first half goal as the Blue Devils had not scored in the first stanza since Oct. 2 against Virginia Tech. Cobb, who is out of Chugiak, Alaska, matched a Blue Devil freshman record with her 10 goals on the year, which is held by Weinberg and Sarah Friend. With the goal at the 2:51 mark, it is the second-fastest tally of the season and it marks the sixth time this year Cobb has scored Duke’s first goal in a match.
The Hokies came right back and added their first two shots of the match in the seventh and ninth minutes. In the 30th minute, Virginia Tech forward Jazmine Reeves drove into the box and Duke goalkeeper Tara Campbell slid to make the stop on a shot and was injured on the play. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Campbell suffered a broken nose and left the match. Redshirt freshman Meghan Thomas entered the contest marking only the second career appearance for the Castle Rock, Colo., product.
“Obviously, we are very, very proud of Meghan for stepping in there [goal],” said Church. “I think it is a real true meaning of a team is that every time something has happened to our top players, we have had people step in and really do a great job. As we all saw, we were under siege and bombardment at the end and Meghan did such a fantastic job with it to.”
Duke was around the goal all day and had plenty of chances to add more tallies to the scoreboard, but couldn’t get it past Hokie goalkeeper Dayle Colpitts. At the end of the first half, Duke held an 11-5 shot advantage.
“I thought we left some goals out there on the field,” said Church. “We just could not get that second goal. We had some great looks at them -- we just couldn’t break their spirits. In soccer when you are down one you are going to really push and if we would have scored one of those goals we may have broke their spirits. Then we may have gotten another one and another one after that.”
Thomas remained in goal for the second half and Virginia Tech’s Shannon Mayrose found herself open outside the 18-yard box in the first minute. Mayrose blasted a right-footed attempt that hit off the crossbar and Duke corralled.
Redshirt sophomore Kim DeCesare was around the goal all day for the Blue Devils as she finished with a team-high four shots along with Cobb. A native of Massapequa Park, N.Y., DeCesare had three shots on goal and her four shots matched a season high.
Virginia Tech tried to mount a late rally with five shots over the final 10 minutes and three corner kicks in the last three minutes but Thomas and the Blue Devil defense held tight. Duke’s defense broke the previous shutout record of 13 that occurred in both 208 and 1992.
Campbell registered the win in goal for the Blue Devils as she played the first 30:14 of the match and finished with one save. Thomas added a career-high three saves in a career-best 54:46 minutes.
“When she [Tara] went down, obviously it was very unfortunate,” commented Thomas. “It caused a lot of stress on our team, but I think in practice Tara and I have been competing with each other along with Emily [Nahas] and Ali [Kershner] -- all four of us have helped each other out. We keep practice very competitive and I think that helped me with the pressure.”
For the match, Duke outshot Virginia Tech, 19-14.
Once again, the top-seeded Blue Devils advance to face fifth-seeded Wake Forest (13-3-3) on Friday, Nov. 4 at 5:30 p.m., in the ACC Championship semifinals. In the other semifinal match, second-seeded Virginia will take on sixth-seeded Florida State at 7:30 p.m. Both matches will be aired live on ESPN3.
Blue Devil Notes:
• Duke had not scored or won an ACC Championship match since a 2005 victory over Boston College, 2-0. Duke had been outscored 7-0 in the last six ACC Championship matches.
• With her 27 points on the season, Kelly Cobb matches a school record for a freshman at Duke (Andi Melde (1994).
• Cobb now owns 70 shots on the season, which ranks as the second-most in school history by a Duke freshman (Andi Melde - 71). Her 70 shots also ranks 10th on Duke’s overall single season list.
• Cobb now owns six game-winning goals, which ranks as the third-most by a Duke player on the single-season list. It also ranks tied for ninth on Duke’s career list.