STILLWATER, Okla. - With a trip to the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals on the line, Oklahoma State was able to notch a goal in each half as the sixth-ranked Cowgirls defeated Duke, 2-0, Friday evening in front of 1,943 fans at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex.
The Blue Devils, who knocked off California and fifth-ranked Florida to earn a spot in the Sweet Sixteen, ended the year with an 11-8-4 overall record, while Oklahoma State improved to 20-3-2 for the season. The Cowgirls advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals and will play either North Carolina or Notre Dame.
"Congratulations to Oklahoma State," said head coach Robbie Church. "They played a really, really good game, and I thought they were the better team tonight. They were physically stronger than we were and I loved their attacking mentality. I loved how they run at players. I hope we can get our program and our kids at that level someday. I'm very proud of our team. We're an extremely young squad and we battled till the end, but I think the better team won tonight."
For the game, Oklahoma State edged Duke in total shots, 8-9, but the Blue Devils held a 7-2 advantage in corner kicks. Both goalkeepers, Tara Campbell for Duke and Adrianna Franch for OSU, made two saves in the contest.
The Blue Devils came out sharp to open play and the two teams would battle to a 0-0 stalemate throughout the majority of the opening period. Oklahoma State, which owned a 4-2 shot advantage in the first half, would break the scoreless tie just before the intermission.
In the 36th minute, the Cowgirls' Krista Lopez found Megan Marchesano across the middle of the Duke defensive third. Marchesano then dribbled to 15 yards out and found the top left corner of the net on a shot from the top of the box to give Oklahoma State the 1-0 lead with just under nine minutes to play in the first stanza.
"We were a little bit unlucky," added Church. "It was a tough goal to give up in the last 10 minutes of the first half. I thought we started the game very well. We possessed the ball, we changed the point of attack and we played with speed. They put us under pressure and we never really got a rhythm of play. We had to travel a long way for a number of games and I just thought we were just a little bit behind compared to where we were last week"
The Cowgirls added to their lead in the 61st minute to go up 2-0 on the Blue Devils midway through the second half. A cross from OSU's Kristen Kelley found the foot of Lopez inside the Duke box. Lopez then buried her shot from six yards out into the bottom left corner for her 15th score of the season as OSU took a two-goal lead into the final 27 minutes of the contest.
Duke would go on to outshoot Oklahoma State, 5-3, down the stretch, but the Cowgirl defense was able to prevent a Blue Devil tally and OSU held on for the 2-0 victory.
The Blue Devils will return 10 starters and 20 letterwinners for the 2011 season after losing eight seniors to graduation from this year's Sweet Sixteen squad. Duke will also return a core nucleus consisting of its top three scorers in freshmen Laura Weinberg, Mollie Pathman and Kaitlyn Kerr along with sophomore goalkeeper Tara Campbell.