DURHAM, N.C. – The Duke women’s soccer team had the No. 1 ranked Virginia Cavaliers on the ropes, but allowed three second half goals to drop a 3-2 decision at home on Thursday evening at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C.
With the loss, the Blue Devils dropped to 4-5-2 overall and 1-3-1 in the ACC. Virginia improves to 10-0-0, 4-0-0. For the second straight match, Duke led a 2-0 led go away to a league foe. “I am just heartbroken,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church. “We are in a tough stretch here. We are miss-matching players; we have a couple of players playing three positions out there. We got another one hurt today, but the kids are not giving up. They are fighting, scratching and playing hard. The first half was unbelievable. I was afraid that so much energy we used in the first half and we are thin that it would come back to haunt us.”
Duke got on the board early in the match as senior Mollie Pathman raced down the pitch to find redshirt senior Kim DeCesare. A product of Massapequa Park, N.Y., DeCesare cut to the right side of the box and sent a perfect cross to junior Kelly Cobb, who redirected the ball with her left toe into the net to put Duke ahead, 1-0. Cobb netted her second goal of the season.
Virginia had one of its best chances of the first half in the 12th minute as Makenzy Doniak found herself with a one-v-one chance on the left side of the box, after a Duke defender turned the ball over. Blue Devil goalkeeper Ali Kershner made a diving stop to her right to keep Duke’s lead, 1-0.
The Blue Devils came back to register its second goal of the match at the 22:10 mark as freshman Malinda Allen flicked a corner kick from Pathman over to Cobb. A native of Chugiak, Alaska, Cobb lifted a ball to senior Kaitlyn Kerr who did a semi-bicycle kick into the right corner of the net. The goal from Kerr, who is from Bensalem, Pa., was her 26th career tally, which moved her into a tie for eighth on Duke’s career scoring charts.
“I always said I wanted to score a bicycle – it wasn’t exactly a bike,” said Kerr. “I just saw it behind me. I have done it a couple of times in practice over the years, but never got one in a game-like situation. I was just excited to get it. I saw it out there in front and had the opportunity to try to get a goal.”
Virginia added two other shots to close the first half, while DeCesare added another that went wide right.
“We were playing awesome,” said Kerr about the first half. “We had some team talks this past week to get it back together. I think we did that today. We came out and played as a team today, but we just didn’t get the result we wanted.”
At the end of the first half, Virginia held a 7-5 lead in shots, but the Blue Devils led 2-0 on the scoreboard.
The Cavaliers came out firing in the second half and scored two goals in a span of less than two minutes to even the match, 2-2, by the 49th minute. Virginia received tallies from Morgan Brian and Makenzy Doniak from very similar positions near the left corner of the box.
Just over three minutes later, Duke freshman Christina Gibbons blasted a right-footed attempt from just outside the box that hit the crossbar, which was the Blue Devils best chance to score in the second half. Virginia controlled most of the run of play in the second stanza outshooting Duke, 15-4.
Virginia netted the game-winning goal at the 79:37 mark as Shasta Fisher placed a cross from the right side in front of the goal to the feet of Gloria Douglas, who sank her first goal of the season to give Virginia a 3-2 lead.
Duke added one late shot by DeCesare but it went wide. For the match, Virginia outshot Duke, 22-9, with Kerr, freshman Toni Payne and DeCesare each leading the Blue Devils with two.
Kershner played all 90 minutes in goal and finished with a career-high seven saves. Morgan Stearns had one save for Virginia in the net.
“I could not be prouder of our group than I am tonight,” said Church. “It is part of being a young team. You have to finish games. We are starting games well. We have kids that have never seen this speed of play. They will be ready to play.”
Duke will next host 13th-ranked Virginia Tech on Sunday, Sept. 29 at 2:00 p.m.
Notes: • Mollie Pathman registered her 25th career assist on Duke’s first goal. She ranks third overall on the Blue Devil career list. • Senior Kaitlyn Kerr notched two points on the night to give her 70 on her career. This moved her into ninth place on Duke’s all-time points list. • Duke dropped to 1-3-1 at home this season. • The Blue Devils have allowed 10 goals over the last four matches. • Junior defender Tabria Williford excited the first half with an injury and did not return. • Freshman Malinda Allen connected on her first collegiate assist on the second Blue Devil goal. • Duke drops to 2-15 all-time against No. 1 ranked teams.