DURHAM, N.C.óDuke University senior Mike Grella tallied seven points from three goals and an assist to push the No. 24 Blue Devils past Stony Brook, 5-0, in non-conference men’s soccer action tonight at Koskinen Stadium. Grella registered a natural hat trick, scoring three straight goals in a span of eight minutes in the second half.
The Blue Devils push their record to 5-3-1 overall and 4-0-1 at home, while Stony Brook falls to 2-8-1 on the year. Duke has allowed just two goals in the past six games and now has four shutouts for the season.
“As a team, for us to be successful we have to pass the ball and in the second half we really started doing that,” sophomore Cole Grossman said. “We wore them down and created a lot more open spaces through our combination play and passing and came away with the win.”
Duke controlled the play from the very beginning of the game and created some early scoring chances. The Sea Wolves were able to keep the Blue Devils at bay through those first dangerous looks, but Duke broke through with its first tally in the 16th minute.
Collecting the ball at the midfield, Grossman found the feet of Grella up top. Grella dished the ball right back to Grossman behind the Stony Brook defense, where he slipped it under Dawid Ditrich for the 1-0 lead.
“Anytime you have Mike Grella on your team you try to find his feet,” Grossman said. “I just found his feet and he gave it right back to me and I was able to put it under the goalie.”
The Blue Devils continued to put pressure on the Sea Wolves, but were unable to get on the board again as they headed into halftime with a 1-0 advantage. Duke held a 7-0 edge on shots and a 5-2 lead in corner kicks in the opening 45 minutes.
“We passed the ball well in the first half,” head coach John Kerr said. “We moved into good spots, we just didn’t get that last finish. I was pleased with the movement and the sharpness of the group.”
Stony Brook came out of the locker room looking to push forward and get the equalizer. The Sea Wolves were able to put together some good passes and create a couple dangerous looks midway through the second half.
Brendan Fitzgerald stymied Stony Brook’s first good look on net when he came out and slid to clear a dangerous through ball from the Blue Devil defensive third. Fitzgerald came up with another stop a few minutes later to capture his fourth shutout of the season.
After losing its rhythm just a little in the second half, Duke regained possession of the ball and controlled the pace of the game. After a nifty give-and-go at midfield, Pavelid Castaneda slid the ball right down the middle to Grella. The Blue Devils’ top striker ran onto the pass and had a one-on-one with Ditrich. Ditrich came off his line to cut off the angle, but Grella simply touched it past Ditrich and knocked it home for the 2-0 lead with 15 minutes left to play.
Just over three minutes later it was freshman Temi Molinar and Grossman combining in the box to find a wide open Grella at the 12-yard mark. Composed with the ball at his feet, Grella found the corner and put the ball in the back of the net to make it a 3-0 game. The next tally from Grella came courtesy of a pass from rookie Graham Oxley in the box. Oxley slid a square ball just inside the penalty area and Grella finished with ease for the natural hat trick.
Rookie Kwasi Ayisi finished off the scoring for the Blue Devils in the 86th minute when he took the ball near the end line and beat Dan Zori past the near post.
Duke outshot Stony Brook 18-4 and won the corner kick battle 8-3. Fitzgerald made one save in 83 minutes of action to earn the win, while Dawid Ditrick had seven stops in just over 83 minutes in goal.
The Blue Devils resume conference play on Oct. 3, at Boston College at 7 p.m.