BLACKSBURG, Va.óDuke University senior Mike Grella scored a pair of second-half goals to lead the Blue Devils to a 3-1 victory over No. 22 Virginia Tech in the teams’ ACC men’s soccer opener. Duke pushed its win streak to three games with the Hokies being the second victory over a ranked opponent for the Blue Devils.
“[A win like this] gives the younger players belief,” head coach Kerr said “A belief that they can play at this level. We’re still not going to get ahead of ourselves, we’re still going to try and keep an even keel. We played well at parts tonight, but we still didn’t play a full 90 minutes of quality soccer.”
The Blue Devils improve to 3-2-0 on the season and 1-0 in ACC play, while Virginia Tech drops its record to 2-2-1 overall and 0-1 against conference foes.
Duke jumped all over the Hokies in the opening 45 minutes, creating scoring opportunities from the start. Earning a corner kick just 1:58 into the game, the Blue Devils got its first good look at goal at the 2:20 mark when Kyle Bethel’s shot was stopped by Hokie goalie Brendan Dunn. They continued to pepper the goal with shots over the next few minute before Bethel broke through with the goal.
“We got off to a really good start in the first half,” head coach John Kerr said. “Temi was having a great time on the wing, getting good crosses in and we were able to get that first goal. In the first 25 minutes in particular we were very well organized and sharp on defense and able to turn wins into good transition plays. Defensively we were solid.”
Rookie midfielder Temi Molinar was able to beat his defender down the left flank and serve the ball across the penalty box where Bethel slotted it home to the far post for the 1-0 Duke lead in the 12th minute.
The Blue Devils’ defense stifled the Hokie attack as they allowed just one shot in the opening stanza and none after the fifth minute. Duke generated more offense, but was unable to find the back of the net and went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
“We came into halftime trying to regroup and keep going forward,” Kerr said. “What happened in the second half was exactly what we didn’t want, but I was very happy that we were able to get it back and Grella scored two great goals for us.”
Looking to tie the score, Virginia Tech wasted little time in getting on the scoreboard. After Duke fired off three shots in the first five minutes, the Hokies responded by going down the field and tying the score.
Emmanuel Akogyeram had the first look at goal, but was denied by Duke goalie Brendan Fitzgerald. Demanya Dogbey collected the ball again and fed it across the box to Tobias Hottner who beat Fitzgerald to make it a 1-1 contest with 38:08 left to play.
The Hokies continued to put the pressure on the Blue Devils. Duke held off the Hokie attack and provided the best possible response 12 minutes later with a tally from Grella for the 2-1 lead. He collected a ball from Bethel and beat Dunn low to the left corner for his fourth goal of the season. The Hermann Trophy candidate added an insurance goal with 3:13 left in the game when he got the ball about 25 yards from goal and beat a defender one-on-one and curled it with the outside of his foot to the left corner.
The Blue Devils dominated in the statistics, outshooting Virginia Tech 19-6 and holding a 7-4 edge in corner kicks. Fitzgerald went the distance for Duke and made two saves, while Dunn and Stefan Caulfield both saw action and made eight saves combined.
Duke resumes non-conference play this coming week, hosting Davidson on Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.