DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke women’s soccer team returned home for the first time since Sept. 29 and netted a key 1-0 victory over N.C. State on Thursday evening at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C. Winners of three out of the last four matches, the Blue Devils improved to 7-6-4 overall and 4-4-3 in the ACC.
“We are so excited about how we are playing,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church. “I think we are playing our best soccer. This is the time of the year to play our best soccer. We got a crucial three points as it is something we had to have.”
The first half featured Duke dominating the run of play and outshooting the Wolfpack, 9-0. The Blue Devils didn’t manage any excellent scoring chances but kept the majority of possession over the first 45 minutes. Senior Laura Weinberg led Duke with four first half shots, while redshirt senior Kim DeCesare added two attempts.
The Blue Devils came out of the gate in the second half and Weinberg fired a good attempt less than a minute into action that went high. N.C. State (6-12-0, 1-11-0) responded with two out of the next three shots, but one was blocked and the other was saved by redshirt junior goalkeeper Meghan Thomas.
Freshman Toni Payne was very aggressive all night in the box and had Duke’s best scoring chance so far in the match as she drove down the left side, attacked the left post and fired a shot that blasted off the post and came out. The Wolfpack countered with their best scoring chance of the match as Karri Owens slipped in-between two Duke defenders and fired a shot, but Thomas dove to her left to make the diving stop.
Senior Kaitlyn Kerr lofted a ball into the box in the 69th minute and DeCesare cut towards the goal. A native of Massapequa Park, N.Y., DeCesare found herself with a one-v-one opportunity and used her left foot to push through the lone goal of the night to put Duke ahead, 1-0.
“It was a nice little combination play outside the box,” said Church. “The ball was chipped over to her and timed her run well. She was onside as there was no question there. She did a nice composed job of finishing.”
Payne, who is a product of Birmingham, Ala., added three more shots over the final 19 minutes and the Duke defense held on for its sixth shutout of the season. A 5-3 freshman, Payne finished the night with a career-high five shots. She had scored in two out of the last three matches prior to the N.C. State match.
Duke outshot N.C. State, 18-5, for the match with Weinberg (6), Payne (5) and DeCesare (4) leading the way.
“We took too many touches in the first half and we had a bad attacking shape in the first half,” commented Church. “So we settled for a lot of shots. We got a lot lower in the second half and came from the outside in a lot more. We only got one goal out of it but it created a lot better chances. We moved the ball well and we shared it well in the second half.”
Netting the victory in goal was Thomas, who totaled two saves over the 90 minutes. A native of Castle Rock, Colo., Thomas was making her 2013 home debut and moved to 3-0-1 over the last four matches since being inserted into the starting lineup.
“Today was huge,” said DeCesare. “A win is a win, it doesn’t matter who our opponent is at this point. We just need to keep the W’s coming because we cannot afford to lose or tie anymore games. We are playing our best soccer now. We have building off every game and getting better and better. It is nice to have a week where we won two games in a row.”
The Blue Devils collected their first two-match win streak since Duke won back-to-back contests on Aug. 30 and Sept. 1.
Duke will next host Pittsburgh on Sunday, Oct. 27 for senior day at 1:00 p.m. The Blue Devils will recognize eight seniors playing in their final regular season home match at Koskinen Stadium. The seniors that will be honored are Alex Straton, Natasha Anasi, Thomas, Weinberg, Mollie Pathman, Kerr, Gilda Doria and Avery Rape. DeCesare, a redshirt senior, will also play her final home match but was honored last season.
“We have senior night [Sunday], which is going to be a very emotional night here,” commented Church. “These seniors have done a lot of great things for our program. We have to make sure we take care of business.”
Notes: • Kim DeCesare totaled her ninth career game-winning goal, 27th career tally on the night. • Senior Natasha Anasi started her 66th straight start on the night and helped the Blue Devils to the 38th shutout as a Blue Devil. • Thursday’s game was Duke’s annual cancer awareness match. The Blue Devils held a silent auction to raise money to go to the Morgan Blazek family. Morgan was the honorary coach for the night and sat next to the bench.