ELON, N.C.—Duke University sophomore Cole Grossman registered a goal and an assist to lead the Blue Devils to a 2-0 victory at non-conference foe Elon in men’s soccer action this evening. The road contest was the final one for Duke this season as it closes out its regular season with four straight home games.
Possession remained even throughout much of the first 30 minutes of the opening half. Both squads tried to build their attacks through the midfield, but were unable to find that finishing pass in the final third of the field as the Phoenix and Blue Devils combined for five shots and two on frame.
The first good scoring chance of the evening came courtesy of the Phoenix with just over 11 minutes left to play in the first period. Elon won a corner kick after capitalizing on a turnover in Duke’s defensive third. A well-struck corner kick to the far post found the foot of Aaron Parker. Parker fired a shot to the right corner of the net, but rookie midfielder Joe Pak was there to clear the ball of the line to keep the game tied.
The Blue Devils came right back and quickly ran right at the Phoenix backline as it recovered from the corner kick. Sophomore Cole Grossman took the ball on the counter attack and got free in the box and slipped it low to the left corner past Kyle Boerner for the 1-0 lead.
“It’s a funny game sometimes,” head coach John Kerr said. “They almost score and then we catch them forward with numbers. We did a great job of executing on that first goal with good movement and passing.”
Elon looked for the equalizer right away, but was denied by Duke’s defense to send the Blue Devils into halftime with a 1-0 lead. Duke held a 6-4 advantage in shots for the half, despite the Phoenix having four more corner kicks.
Duke created its first scoring opportunity of the second half just five minutes into the frame. Senior Mike Grella took the ball in the box and slotted it back to Trae Harrison, who shot it just wide of the net.
Looking for that two-goal cushion, the Blue Devils continued to press the Phoenix and capitalized on that pressure in the 56th minute. Grossman found an opening and rifled a shot to the near post. Boerner made the initial save, but Nick Sih was right there to knock in the rebound for a 2-0 lead.
Elon nearly made it a one-goal game again two minutes later as Imeni’s header nearly slipped over the line before senior Darrius Barnes cleared it off the line. After some quality possession by Duke, Imeni collected a through pass from Daniel Street and just missed hitting the right side netting of the goal.
The Blue Devils started to get into a good rhythm in the final 20 minutes as they controlled much of the run of play. They were able to generate some good looks, but were just a little unlucky in not scoring a couple more goals.
Duke outshot Elon 19-7 for the game, including a 13-3 edge in the second half. The Phoenix held a 10-5 advantage in corner kicks for the game, but was unable to capitalize on any of the opportunities.
Brendan Fitzgerald made two saves and the Blue Devils had two team saves, while Boerner had seven stops.
“We had more opportunities against Wake [Forest] than we did tonight,” Kerr said. “We were fortunate that we put the two away and we should have had a couple maybe, but the good part is that we are creating opportunities. Another great thing as a coach is that you’re always happy with a shutout. I’m proud of the way we defended tonight.”
The Blue Devils close out the regular season with four straight home games. They start the homestand with ACC foe Virginia on Oct. 25 at 7 p.m., at Koskinen Stadium.