BLACKSBURG, Va. – Duke freshman Issa Rayyan registered a brace to lead the 14th-ranked Blue Devils to a 2-0 win over No. 18 Virginia Tech. The victory clinches a first-round bye and No. 3 seed for Duke in the upcoming ACC Championship.
Duke, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, will await its potential opponents following the action Saturday night. The Blue Devils (10-5-1, 5-3-0) capture five ACC wins for the first time since going 5-2-1 in 2006. The third-place finish is the best for Duke since it tied for third in 2011, when it also earned the No. 3 seed.
The first half was all Blue Devils as they controlled possession in their offensive third for significant portion of the 45 minutes. Duke fired nine shots in the opening stanza, five of which came on frame, and sacrificed none to the Hokies, which is averaging over two goals per game this season.
“Certainly our plan was to kind of press them in their own end and force them to play it long, which they did quite often,” said head coach John Kerr. “We had to win the head balls and the second balls and we were the first to every ball in the first half and we were really sharp in our passing and created some havoc in their final third.
Duke was creating nightmares for Virginia Tech (9-5-3, 3-4-1) with high pressure defense in its offensive half of the field. The tireless defending from the strikers and midfielders never allowed the Hokies to get into a rhythm and find space in their offensive third.
Virginia Tech’s best chance of the opening period came in the 22nd minute as the ball got loose in the Duke penalty area, but a sliding tackle from sophomore Matthias Frick kept the Hokies from being able to get a shot off in the wet field conditions.
Frick’s tackle led to the Blue Devils making the break the other way and junior Daniele Proch finding Rayyan inside the six-yard box. The speedy rookie collected the ball just inside the area with his back to goal and with just enough time and presence of mind, Rayyan back-heeled the ball past the Virginia Tech goalkeeper for the 1-0 lead.
Duke refused to let up and Rayyan again wreaked havoc when he got in behind the defense and drew the foul, resulting in a red card to a Hokie. Proch stepped up to the free kick from 20 yards and put it on frame, only to be denied by goalie Mathijs Swaneveld and sending Duke into the locker room with just a 1-0 lead.
Less than five minutes into the second half, Rayyan and Proch combined again to put the Blue Devils up two goals. Proch sent a ball through to Rayyan and the freshman easily beat a defender and finished it for his first career multiple-goal game.
The Blue Devils never let up and were outstanding defensively, keeping Virginia Tech without a shot until the 66th minute. Duke held the Hokies, averaging 2.06 goals per game this season, to no shots on goal to post the fourth shutout of the season. Will Pulisic pushes his career total to 11 shutouts.
Duke will host the ACC quarterfinal Sunday, Nov 4 at 1 p.m. Its opponent will be the winner between the No. 6 and No. 11 seeds. The game will be broadcast on ACC Network Extra.