DURHAM, N.C.—For the second consecutive game, sophomore midfielder Zach Mathers scored a crucial second-half goal as he helped the Blue Devils to a 2-0 victory over Northeastern in the 2013 John Rennie Nike Classic. Duke, finishing 1-0-1 on the weekend, captured the tournament’s crown with Mathers collecting MVP honors.
“We learned a lot about ourselves this weekend,” said head coach John Kerr. “We gained a lot of confidence in our play against Rutgers on Friday night. Today’s game was disjointed due to the heat, due to the tactics of the other team. They’re a tough team, a very good team. At the end of the day we came out with the right result.”
Mathers broke open a scoreless tie in the 72nd minute when freshmen Jimmy Doll served a ball across the top of the penalty area. Rookie Seo-In Kim smartly dummied the ball to a wide-open Mathers who put it back Northeastern goalie Dylan Faber for what proved to be the game winner. The goal was the second of the weekend for Mathers, while both Kim and Doll register their first collegiate points.
“Today to open up the scoring, that first goal is crucial,” Kerr said. “It came at a good time for us to get back on a roll. He just pops up in the right spots and he has the ability to finish. Once we scored that goal, we weren’t going to lose it.”
Duke (1-0-1) started out a little slow against Northeastern (0-1-1) as the Huskies nearly took a 1-0 lead just 1:42 into the game before an offside call disallowed the score. The Blue Devils started to gain momentum midway through the half and generated various scoring chances.
The best opportunity came off the foot of rookie forward Brody Huitema in the 22nd minute. The Vancouver native had a fabulous go at goal from 20 yards out that Faber had to tip just over the crossbar. Overall, Duke outshot Northeastern 5-3 in the first half.
The Blue Devils continued to chip away at the Husky backline in the early minutes of the second period. Both Jared Golestani and Mathers had shots stopped by Faber, while a Kim attempt sailed wide of the net in the 67th minute.
Similar to Friday night against Rutgers, the Blue Devils pressed on and capitalized five minutes later with Mathers finishing Kim’s cross.
“I saw the ball come across and told [Jimmy Doll] to leave it and once again it fell really nicely for me and I got over it and slid it in the corner,” Mathers said.
Less than two minutes later, Huitema nearly got in on the scoring action as he was brought down in the penalty area with only the goalkeeper to beat. Davis stepped up and buried the penalty kick to give Duke the 2-0 lead.
Huitema continued to stay active up top for the Blue Devils in search of that first tally. He registered six shots overall with four coming on frame as Northeastern struggled to contain the 6-1 striker.
“We struggled on offense last year,” Mathers said. “We have Brody up there holding the ball, Seo-In out wide, and Palodichuk [back healthy] is a big addition to our team. This year has been a lot better offensively, but we’re still going to have a great defensive year and an even better offensive year.”
Duke stayed strong in the back in the final 17 minutes as Long earned his first shutout as a Blue Devil. Duke held Northeastern to just five shots for the game and only two on goal. The Blue Devils finished with 16 shots, with Faber making six stops.
The Blue Devils open ACC play Sept. 6 at rival Maryland at 7 p.m.