DURHAM, N.C. - As the seconds ticked away and overtime drew closer in a crucial Thursday night ACC showdown in Durham, senior Kat McDonald headed an Ella Stevens free kick into the back of the net to push the No. 17 Duke Blue Devils (9-2-2, 3-1-1 ACC) to a thrilling 3-2 victory against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (9-2-2, 3-1-1 ACC).
McDonald's goal, her first of the season and third of her career, came with just 49 seconds remaining in the contest. Wake Forest's 16th foul of the contest set up the free kick from Stevens, who delivered her team-leading seventh dime of the season.
The win moves Duke to 10-1-2 all-time at home against the Demon Deacons and 23-2-0 in its last 25 home matches. It also keeps the Blue Devils’ hot streak rolling along, giving them a win or tie in 14 of their last 15 ACC regular matchups and improves them to 8-1-1 in their last 10 matches.
“I thought we did great today and I’m really proud of this team for battling until the end,” head coach Robbie Church said. “These are the kind of games where we need our seniors. Every game is going to be like this one, a fight to the end, so you need those kids to step up and they did tonight. Kayla, Taylor, Chelsea and Kat, those four senior stepped up big time for us.”
“I’m feeling so proud of everybody,” McDonald said. “We had Coach [John] Danowski, the men’s lacrosse coach, come in and talk to us before the game about playing together and I’ve never seen us play more together than we did in that game. It feels amazing to score that goal and also to get a win like that when we needed it.”
The Blue Devils wasted no time in getting things started Thursday night, with senior Kayla McCoy tallying the first of her two goals just 2:46 into the game. The Lincolnwood, Ill., native took aim on goal with her first touch on a through ball from Taylor Racioppi, sending home her sixth score of the season. Then 25 minutes later, McCoy secured her first brace of the year, as McDonald's chip pass found the Blue Devils' forward, who made a move past the WF keeper and sent the ball rolling into the back of the net.
McCoy's seventh goal on the year moves her within one of cracking the top five in Duke women's soccer history for goals scored as she now has 33 for her career. The senior also registered the fifth multi-goal performance of her career, which ties Elisabeth Redmond (2006-09) and Caitlin Connolly (1989-92) for fifth on the DWS all-time list.
Despite holding the 2-0 lead at the half, the Blue Devils could not fend off a furious Wake Forest attack in the second half. The Demon Deacons played the aggressor in the early stages of the second frame, forcing a Brooke Heinsohn save just 44 seconds into play. After fending off a trio of Blue Devil attempts, the Demon Deacons pulled one back with a goal from Bayley Feist in the 60th minute, cutting Duke’s lead to 2-1. The equalizer came 18 minutes later, as Estelle Laurier fired a shot past Heinsohn from the left side of the 18’, tying the match at 2-2.
The match seemed poised to head into overtime as the clocked ticked down until McDonald and Stevens stepped up to give Duke its fourth-straight win against Wake Forest.
“No one is going to quit in this league, doesn’t matter what the score is,” Church said. “I thought we played a brilliant first half. We were really good offensively with the two goals and could have had even more. We had some chances at the start of the second half as well. Obviously momentum changed when Wake hit that first goal from distance, but we never gave up. Overall, it was a great win for us.”
Duke remains home for its next match, hosting the Virginia Tech Hokies on Sunday, Oct. 7. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET at Koskinen and will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.
“Every three points in this league is really important,” Church said. “For us to get the three tonight and continue to climb is huge. This conference is so tough and a performance like tonight, especially with midterms going on, is something you need to see out of your team.”
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