COLLEGE PARK, Md. – In the middle of a four-match road trip, the Duke women’s soccer team traveled to College Park, Md., on Sunday and netted a key ACC victory with a 2-1 clipping of Maryland at Ludwig Field. The win for the Blue Devils was the first since Sept. 12 at home versus Miami.
“I am very proud of how this team responded,” commented head coach Robbie Church. “We had a tough game last Sunday up at Boston College. We gave the kids a couple of days off and we came back to practice and you could see us get better and better during the week. We thought it was the best week we have had offensively during the week in a long time. The kids were all committed and did a great job getting their selves ready for the game. It was a huge game, like the rest of them are.”
The win for the Blue Devils gives Duke a much-needed three points in the ACC standings as the Blue Devils own a 5-6-3 overall and 2-4-2 league mark. Maryland drops to 7-7-0, 3-5-0.
Maryland opened the match taking three out of the first four shots, before Duke featured attempts by senior Laura Weinberg and junior Kelly Cobb, which went wide and were saved by Terrapin goalkeeper Rachelle Beanlands. Maryland responded with five straight shots, but three were saved by redshirt junior goalkeeper Meghan Thomas of the Blue Devils. Thomas, who is out of Castle Rock, Colo., was making her third collegiate start and the first appearance since Aug. 30.
Duke freshman Toni Payne then made a great run down the right side of the pitch into the Maryland 18. A pair of Terrapin defenders closed in on her, but Payne was able to get off an arching shot that looked at first to be heading harmlessly wide of the net, but the ball curled into the upper left corner to give Duke a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute. Payne, who is a native of Birmingham, Ala., registered her second collegiate goal for the Blue Devils.
“Toni Payne scored an unbelievable goal, which was a solo run down the right hand side of the pitch,” said Church. “The bench couldn’t see if it was a goal because it had no angle. It was great for her because she has had so many turns and runs lately that it was great for her to net one and for us to get the 1-0 lead.”
At the end of the first half, Duke held a 1-0 lead, but trailed 8-6 in the shot category.
The Blue Devils took advantage of a corner kick in the 55th minute. Senior Mollie Pathman sent the corner kick from the right corner to the back post where senior defender Natasha Anasi headed it back into the center of the six. That’s where Cobb was able to find it amidst a jumble of players and nudge the ball into the Maryland net for a 2-0 Duke lead. A native of Chugiak, Alaska, Cobb posted her team-best fourth goal of the season, 17th of her career and seventh career game-winner.
Maryland had an opportunity to trim the lead back to a goal in the 59th minute as Aubrey Baker played a cross into the Blue Devils’ 18 for Hayley Brock, but her effort was stopped by Thomas, who finished the match with a career-high nine saves in 90 minutes.
The Terrapins got on the board in the 69th minute to make it a one-goal game once again. Baker had some space on the left side of the 18 and drilled a shot that look like it was heading for the right corner of the net, but Thomas used all of her 6-foot-2 frame to stretch out and make the save. But Thomas couldn’t control the ball upon impact with the ground and it bounced away from her just enough for Cory Ryan to slide in and finish into the left side of the net.
“Even when they scored a goal nobody panicked,” said Church. “We dropped our line a little bit deeper, dropped some players back and I thought we managed the game out well at the end. It was a really good win in a lot of different areas. Most important we get the three points, climbing back towards .500, which makes us NCAA eligible, but we still have a long way to go.”
For the match, Duke was outshot 16-9 with the Blue Devils being led by Cobb and Weinberg with three shots each.
“Meghan did a great job in goal,” said Church. “She was confident back there and wanted the challenge. I thought she did a really good job in goal, communicated well, and kicked the ball well. Unfortunately, the shutout got away a little bit but that is what happens. She played really well and was a major factor in us winning the game.”
The Blue Devils will next travel to Clemson, S.C., on Thursday, Oct. 17 for a 7:00 p.m., match at Clemson. The contest will be aired live on ESPN3.