DURHAM, N.C.—Duke University duo Cole Grossman and Mike Grella combined for all three goals and three assists to help the No. 22 Blue Devils post a 3-1 victory over Northern Illinois in the final non-conference men’s soccer game of the season. Grossman had two goals and an assist, while Grella had two assists and a goal.
The Blue Devils push their record to 10-5-2 overall and are now riding a five-match unbeaten streak. The Huskies fall to 8-5-4 on the year. Duke is now 7-2-1 on its home field.
“We did a great job in midfield today in terms of getting into the attack and backing things up,” head coach John Kerr said. “Cole Grossman played an excellent game and obviously scored two goals, but overall his play and aggressiveness was a big burst to our offense.”
Duke came out fast and needed just 1:03 to get on the scoreboard. Attacking from the opening whistle, the Blue Devils won a corner kick in the opening 40 seconds. Grella’s service found the foot of Grossman who fired it low in the left corner of the net for the 1-0 lead.
The pressure by the Blue Devils continued and it was Grella and Grossman connecting again for the second score just 6:24 later. Grella knifed his way through the box with some great individual work and ripped a shot that rebounded off the post to an open Grossman. Grossman picked out the right corner this time for his second goal of the game and fourth of the year.
“I think Mike Grella makes opportunities for anybody on the field,” Grossman said. “On the second goal, Grella just made an unbelievable play and the ball happened to come right to me. I think overall we did a good job of passing the ball today and I think when we pass the ball we are a dangerous team.”
Northern Illinois got its first look of the game a few minutes later when Finn Jor’s header off a corner kick sailed over the goal. The Huskies started to get into a better rhythm and were able to put some pressure on Duke’s backline as the half continued
Despite feeling a little pressure from the Huskies in the final 15 minutes, the Blue Devils never allowed Northern Illinois to get a clear look on goal as they took a 2-0 lead into halftime.
The Huskies came out of the break looking to get back into the game, but it was Duke scoring first to seemingly ice the victory. Just 5:41 into the second session, Grossman served a long through ball from the midfield to Grella. He collected the ball and was able to beat the last defender and slip the ball past the goalie for a 3-0 lead.
Duke continued to possess the ball and play through the midfield and Grella nearly made it a 4-0 game as his header off a cross from Nick Sih went just wide of the net. Grella continued to give the Huskies fit as moments later he beat his defender and his bending shot went just wide of the goal.
Minutes later senior Pavelid Castaneda got into the attack and rifled a shot off a loose ball from a clearance. Huskies goalie Joe Zimka, however, made a spectacular diving save to keep the game at 3-0 with 27 minutes to play.
Sensing a need for a score, Northern Illinois pushed the pace and was able to generate a few opportunities. The Huskies broke through for a tally in the 75th minute. Jay Aikenhead found Josh Karsten in the box. Karsten slipped the ball to Luis De La Cerda who was right on the doorstep and knocked it home. Northern Illinois picked up its pressure even more and was able to get a few looks at goal in the final 12 minutes. The Blue Devils stayed strong and came away with the 3-1 victory.
Duke and Northern Illinois both had 12 shots apiece, while the Blue Devils had eight shots on goal to the Huskies’ six. In goal, Duke’s Jan Trnka-Amrhein made his second consecutive start and made five saves. Zimka also had five stops in 90 minutes of action.
“We’ve been through a lot this season, there have been some ups and downs and this is four wins in a row with a tie, so we feel good about the direction we’re headed,” Kerr said. “We have a big game against N.C. State on Friday night that we’re not overlooking. We want to make sure we win that game and get ready for the ACC’s.”
The Blue Devils close out the regular season on Nov. 7, hosting ACC foe N.C. State at 7 p.m., at Koskinen Stadium.