DURHAM, N.C.—Duke University senior Mike Grella buried a penalty kick with 3:39 left in the first overtime to lead the Blue Devils to a crucial 1-0 win over 19th-ranked Virginia in ACC men’s soccer action this evening at Koskinen Stadium. Grella’s goal was his fourth game-winner of the season and second in overtime.
Duke improves to 8-5-2 overall and 3-2-2 in ACC action. The Blue Devils have not allowed a goal in three straight games and in 296:21. Virginia falls to 8-5-1 and 4-2-0 against conference foes.
“My hat is off to the defense tonight,” head coach John Kerr said. “Brendan made some good saves down the stretch and early on. The defense has been resilient. We’ve moved some guys around as well. Nick Sih’s played right back, up front, out wide and center mid today. I thought he was tremendous.”
After a scoreless 90 minutes of action and the Blue Devils playing with just 10 men for the final 34 minutes, the two squads headed into overtime in search of a winner. The Blue Devils attacked early in the opening overtime frame and got on the board with Grella’s penalty kick.
Duke earned a throw-in deep in Virginia’s defensive third. Finding Grella’s feet on just the edge of the penalty area, he flicked the ball over a Cavalier defender’s head and quickly turned. Looking to stop Grella from getting to the goal, the defender brought him down in the box resulting in the penalty kick. Grella calmly stepped up to the ball and faked the goalie out and simply put the ball in the back of the net for his 11th goal of the year.
“I kicked the ball over his head and turned him real fast,” Grella said. “There were actually two of them and I knew I was alone so I had to do something pretty special, so I tried and it worked and I got around. I don’t know if I could have done much after that, but luckily he held me enough for me to go down and the referee gave the penalty.”
Virginia controlled the run of play throughout much of the first half as the Cavaliers held a 7-0 edge in shots. The Cavs were able to find the open lanes with through balls, but the Duke defense held strong to keep the score tied at zero after the opening 45 minutes. Senior goaltender Brendan Fitzgerald made three stops for Duke in the first session.
The Blue Devils came out of halftime with a lot of energy and attacked the Cavaliers. They created an early chance off of a corner kick, but sophomore Cole Grossman’s shot was cleared out of danger.
Going a man down due to a red card with 34:54 left to play, Duke came even more alive and ran at Virginia throughout much of the second half. Minutes later, Nick Sih found his way into the penalty area with an overlapping run. His shot to the far post skipped just wide.
“Luckily for us it seemed to inspire us,” Kerr said. “We were pretty good when the chips were down. It raised our level of work rate and desire and my hat’s off to them, they really came through in the end.”
Duke’s pressure all over the field was relentless throughout the final 30 minutes of regulation. The Blue Devils created scoring opportunities and kept the Cavaliers on the defensive as they outshot Virginia 6-4 and maintained a good amount of the possession in the second 45 minutes.
Virginia was able to create a few dangerous opportunities in the second frame, but it was Duke’s resilient defense and Fitzgerald coming through to keep the game tied and force overtime.
It was all Duke in the overtime session as it held off Virginia in the first couple minutes and created the lone two shots in the period.
Virginia held an 11-8 advantage on shots and won the corner kick battle, 6-4. Fitzgerald made five saves for the Blue Devils, while Michael Giallombardo had one stop.
The Blue Devils get right back into action on Tuesday, Oct. 28, hosting non-conference foe Colgate at 7 p.m., at Koskinen Stadium.