DURHAM, N.C.—Duke redshirt senior goalkeeper Alex Long made a career-high 10 saves to help the Blue Devils battle to a 0-0 tie with No. 23 Virginia in the rare midweek ACC men’s soccer clash. The scoreless draw is the second consecutive for the Blue Devils as Long and the Duke backline posted its fourth shutout of the year.
“Shutouts for goalkeepers are always big,” Long said. “They’re great for building momentum going forward. You can build on that confidence and try to repeat it again and I’m sure it gives the defense confidence as well.”
The first half featured a lot of play through the midfield with neither team creating great looks despite pressing forward with pace. Duke (4-4-4, 0-3-3) managed the first shot of the contest as Brody Huitema’s header off of a cross from the left flank was stopped by Virginia goalie Jeff Gal.
Virginia (6-3-2, 2-2-2) fired three shots overall in the opening half, none of which really tested Long as he came away with one save after 45 minutes of action. Duke, meanwhile, had a pair of dangerous chances off of corner kicks that missed high and wide, respectively.
The Blue Devils’ best chance came in the waning seconds of the first half as the ball got loose inside the 18-yard box, but the Cavaliers did well to safely clear it away as time expired to send the teams into the locker rooms tied 0-0.
Coming out of the break, the Cavaliers started to get into a good offensive rhythm as they ran at the stalwart Duke backline. Less than a minute into the second half, Virginia forward Darius Madison’s chance slipped just wide of the goal.
With Duke struggling to find holes in Virginia’s defense, the Cavaliers continued to push for the game’s first goal. Virginia had 11-second half shots with six of those being stopped by Long. Perhaps most importantly, Long never gave up a rebound on the Cavaliers’ long-range shots as the Blue Devils held Virginia scoreless for just the second time this season.
“Virginia came out in the second half and stepped up their offensive output,” said head coach John Kerr. “We were resilient defensively. Luckily for us we stood our ground. I thought Alex Long had a great game, really solid in the back, and the back four was excellent. And Will Donovan, coming into play right back, was really good as well.”
As time started to wind down in regulation, junior Nick Palodichuk had a go at goal that skipped just wide of the net with 10 to play. Neither team had any quality opportunities in the final 10 minutes as Duke headed to its second straight overtime game.
The first overtime was all Virginia. The Cavaliers nearly ended the game on five consecutive shots with just over two minutes to go. The flurry started when Eric Bird was stymied by Long on a breakaway opportunity. Jordan Allen got the rebound and fired it on frame, only to be denied by a Duke defender. Long came up with another big save on the ensuing rebound and Duke finally cleared it out of danger.
“It was make the first save, then focus on the next one and the next one,” Long said. “My defense did a great job getting back. I’m happy to have them back there with me.”
Huitema, with a resilient defense behind him, nearly gave the Blue Devils the overtime win with just over 30 seconds left in the game, but his 20-yard strike was tipped over the bar by Gal to end the game in a scoreless draw.
Virginia held a 22-9 advantage in shots and Gal finished with three saves. The Cavaliers also had the narrow 10-7 edge in corner kicks.
Duke continues its four-game ACC swing with NC State at Koskinen Stadium Oct. 11. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.