DURHAM, N.C. – After scoring only five goals the first six matches, the 12th-ranked Duke women’s soccer team had its offense come alive with three second half goals as the Blue Devils downed Miami, 3-0, to open ACC action at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C.
Duke improved to 4-2-1 overall and 1-0-0 in ACC play, while Miami moved to 5-1-0, 0-1-0.
“I thought we played the most complete game that we had all year,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church.
The Blue Devil offense looked like the Duke team that scored 65 goals a year ago and posted a school-record 207 points, but it was a redshirt sophomore goalkeeper, Ali Kershner that was phenomenal on Thursday evening stopping a penalty kick in the first half.
“What an unbelievable save by Ali,” commented Church. “It was just phenomenal, phenomenal save. It was big. We controlled the whole game and then we could have been down 1-0 easily at the half. Then a lot of things changed. We started pressing a little bit more, they started putting more players behind the ball and then they were not worried about anything else. That save was just so big in so many waves.”
Duke opened the match with the ball on its offensive side of the pitch and featured a flurry of shots early by redshirt senior Kim DeCesare, senior Kaitlyn Kerr and junior Kelly Cobb.
The Blue Devils featured its best opportunity of the opening 20 minutes as freshman Christina Gibbons made an excellent run down the right side and crossed to Cobb. A native of Chugiak, Alaska, Cobb blasted a right-footed attempt that Miami goalkeeper Emily Lillard just got her left hand on to keep it out of the net at the 17:10 mark.
After some fancy footwork at the top of the 18, freshman Toni Payne drove into the box around two Hurricane defenders and fired a shot but Lillard made another diving stop, but this time to her right to keep the score even.
In the 40th minute, a Blue Devil took down a Miami forward in the box and the Hurricanes were awarded a penalty kick. Miami senior Tara Schwitter stepped up and tried to place a right-footed attempt into the right corner but Duke redshirt sophomore keeper Ali Kershner read Schwitter perfectly and saved the attempt. Kershner, who is out of Palo Alto, Calif., turned in two saves over the first 45 minutes for the Blue Devils, including one on the first penalty kick she faced in her collegiate career.
“ “I decided on a side and she went that way and it worked out,” commented Kershner. “As a goalkeeper, that is my job. No matter what the situation it is my job is to save the goal.”
At the half, Duke held a 12-6 edge in shots led by a season-high tying five from Cobb. Payne and senior Laura Weinberg each added two attempts.
“Ali was great,” said Pathman. “That just gave everyone confidence. That could have completely changed the game as they could have sat in after that. Ali came up huge for us.”
After being on the attack for most of the match, Duke finally was rewarded for its efforts at the 48:30 mark of the second half. DeCesare made a beautiful run up the middle of the field and passed to Weinberg, who just touched it to Payne. A product of Birmingham, Ala., Payne took the ball into the box and bent a perfect shot inside the right post for her first collegiate goal.
“It was nice to see the first goal in,” said Church. “Toni stuck it right in the corner as she hit it well. We all said it was a matter of time before it happened, but we just kept waiting and waiting.”
The Blue Devils added a second goal less than 10 minutes later as senior Mollie Pathman sent a free kick from near the Duke bench to a leaping Weinberg. A product of Boca Raton, Fla., Weinberg headed the ball towards the goal where Kerr made a great diving header into the net for her second goal of the season to give Duke a 2-0 advantage.
After just missing on her career-high seventh shot of the match two minutes prior, Cobb was finally able to notch the her first goal of the 2013 campaign at the 77:10 mark. Pathman sent in a free kick to Kerr, who used her body to place the ball at the feet of Cobb just outside the top of the 18. Cobb, who scored 11 goals as a freshman, took two touches and blasted a shot that deflected off a Hurricane defender and into the back of the net.
For the game, Kershner totaled a career-high five saves over 90 minutes to notch her third shutout of the season. Lillard added seven saves in goal for Miami.
Duke held a 21-10 advantage in shots on the night led by Cobb’s career-high eight. Payne and Weinberg each added three, while Anasi and Kerr chipped in two.
“We have a wonderful opportunity with Florida State coming in on Sunday afternoon,” said Church. “We are looking forward to it.”
The Blue Devils will next host fourth-ranked Florida State on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. All fans attending the Duke football game versus Georgia Tech can present their ticket to Sunday’s soccer game and get in for free.
Notes: • With her two assists, Mollie Pathman moved into third place on Duke’s all-time assists list with 24. Laura Weinberg also moved into a tie for seventh with 20 assists over her career. Kaitlyn Kerr owns 18 career assists to move into a tie for 11th. • Laura Weinberg now owns 88 career points, which ranks tied for third all-time at Duke. Kaitlyn Kerr moved into a tie for 10th on Duke’s all-time point’s chart with 66. • Duke had scored only five goals all season before the three in the second half on the night. • The Blue Devils have allowed only four goals through seven matches. • Kaitlyn Kerr owns 25 career goals to move into sole possession of ninth place on Duke’s all-time charts.