CHARLESTON, S.C. – In a season filled with broken records, program firsts and a conference title, Duke added another accomplishment to the list on Friday. Thanks to an Ella Stevens header in the opening minutes of the second half, the No. 1 seed Blue Devils (19-1-0) took down the No. 4 seed Virginia Cavaliers (11-5-4) to the tune of 1-0 to advance to the ACC Tournament Finals for the first time in 17 years.
“Hats off to Virginia, a really good team that came out and was ready to play,” head coach Robbie Church said. “They put us under immense pressure early in the game. We couldn’t connect on passes and seemed to panic a little bit. They were giving us some fits so we had to change our formation on the fly and I think our girls did a really good job of adjusting to that and executing our gameplan.”
After a first half dominated by UVA, the Blue Devils came out of halftime looking for a spark. Enter Stevens, who headed home her fourth goal of the season to give Duke the only goal it needed for its 19th-straight win. Schuyler DeBree got the process rolling with a free kick to Chelsea Burns, who headed it over to Stevens for the finish on the first Blue Devil attempt of the match.
The win also moved the 2017 DWS squad just three wins away from tying the program single-season record of 22 set in 2011. Virginia was the aggressor in the opening half of play, taking seven shots and holding the Blue Devils without an attempt for the first time this season. However, the play of All-ACC First Team honoree EJ Proctor was key in the Blue Devils keeping the match scoreless after the first 45, as she collected four saves. The Blue Devils also avoided danger in the 43rd minute, as Taylor Racioppi made a save at the goal line on a UVA attempt in the box.
Proctor kept her stellar senior campaign rolling, tying her season high with five saves as she collected her 10th shutout of the season. That moves her to 31 for her career, which is two away from overtaking Allison Lipsher (2004-07) for second place.
“The girl is First Team All-ACC for a reason,” Church said. “She had a great presence about her today. These are her kind of games. She loves the big games and we know if we have a breakdown the opposing team is going to have a hard time getting it past her.”
The tone in the second half was set by Stevens’ score in the 47th minute. The Blue Devils fired off four shots in the second frame and nearly reeled in a second score at the 81:51 mark, as Imani Dorsey curved a ball that deflected off the right post.
Virginia put together a flurry of shots in the final four minutes, including a header that resulted in a ridiculous save from Proctor on a header with two minutes remaining to keep the shutout intact. UVA would get one last chance on a corner, but had nothing going as the Blue Devils held on for the 1-0 triumph.
UVA owned the shots battle, 11-4, making Duke 4-0-0 this year when being outshot. With the win, the Blue Devils will move on to Sunday’s championship match for the first time since the 2000 season and the first time in the Robbie Church era. Duke will play the winner of No. 2 North Carolina and No. 3 NC State, who will face off in the day’s second match. Sunday’s contest will kick off at 1 p.m. ET and will be nationally televised on ESPNU with a live stream on ACC Network Extra.
“This was a great win, but now we’re concentrating on Sunday,” Church said. “We have the chance to win the ACC Championship and that’s been one of our goals from the start. Just very proud of this team for how they played and now we’re ready to finish the job.” For more information on Duke women’s soccer, follow the Blue Devils on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram by searching for “DukeWSoc”. You can also find all-access coverage of all Duke athletic programs on SnapChat by searching for “dukeathletics”.