DURHAM, N.C. – On a very emotional senior day, the Duke women’s soccer team continued its hot streak as the Blue Devils scored six first half goals en route to a 6-3 win over Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C. With the victory, Duke improved to 8-6-4 overall and 5-4-3, while clinching a bid in the upcoming ACC Tournament.
The Blue Devils are unbeaten over the last five matches and will close the regular season at arch-rival North Carolina on Thursday, Oct. 31 at 7:00 p.m., in Chapel Hill, N.C.
“I thought we were really good,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church. “We were really focused. You always worry during senior day because you never know [how the team will come out and play]. That was a big senior day – a lot of people, a lot of emotion and a lot of really good players who have put a lot of energy into our program.”
Duke got things started in the first three minutes of the match as redshirt senior Kim DeCesare found a streaking Kelly Cobb in the middle of the field. Cobb, who is out of Chugiak, Alaska, split two defenders and then beat Pittsburgh keeper Taylor Francis into the left corner to take a 1-0 lead.
The Blue Devils then scored five more goals in a span of 27 minutes to go ahead, 6-0, at the half. The six goals was a season high as Duke had not scored more than three all season.
“Just getting the win [is what I am most excited about] said Kerr. “We needed it to get into the NCAA Tournament. We got it done and everyone was a huge part of it. The entire team got in and played great minutes. I think it was an overall great team win.”
Weinberg, who is a Boca Raton, Fla., product, netted her fifth goal of the season in the 13th minute off an assist from Cobb to put Duke ahead, 2-0. The goal was Weinberg’s 39th career tally and gave her 100 career points. She joined only Kelly Walbert (117) as Blue Devils who have registered over 100 career points at Duke.
In a span of less than four minutes, Kerr put Duke ahead 4-0 with two goals herself. The 5-5 midfielder one-timed a cross from the left side of the pitch in the 18th minute and then added her second goal in the 21st minute off an assist from freshman Toni Payne. Kerr collected her fourth career multi-goal game and eighth career game-winner.
Cobb posted her second career multi-goal contest as she connected on her second goal of the match at the 22:06 mark to give the Blue Devils a 5-0 lead, off assists from DeCesare and Kerr.
“I thought they both were great,” commented Church on the play of Kerr and Cobb. “Kaitlyn is a very emotional young lady. The whole senior day and singing the national anthem was very emotional to her. I didn’t know how exactly she was going to react. Five minutes into the match, you could see how she reacted. She really did some great things. It was great to see Kelly get that first goal. For her to get those two goals was great for us moving forward.”
Freshman midfielder Malinda Allen got into the scoring column for the first time in her collegiate career as she ran through the defense and beat Francis from seven yards out to give Duke a commanding 6-0 advantage at the 39:35 mark.
At the half, Duke held a 24-2 advantage in shots.
“I thought the team had a great first half,” said Cobb. “We came out and attacked, obviously from the get go. That was the plan as this game was very important for us to get into the NCAA Tournament.”
The Blue Devil starters came out on the field to begin the second half but they didn’t play long as Church emptied the bench and Duke took only seven second half shots.
Pittsburgh added three goals over the final 10 minutes of play, including an own goal by the Blue Devils, to cut the Duke lead to 6-3.
For the match, Duke outshot the Panthers, 31-6. The 31 shots were a season high for the Blue Devils. Kerr led with six attempts, Payne added five, while Cobb and Allen chipped in four.
Thomas, who was making her fifth straight start in goal for Duke, played 60 minutes and totaled one save, while not allowing a goal. She owns a 0.39 goals-against average along with a 4-0-1 record during the five-match unbeaten streak. Redshirt sophomore Ali Kershner came in the final 30 minutes and allowed three goals as the reserves were in.
With Duke’s 5-4-3 mark in the conference, the Blue Devils currently sit in sixth place in the ACC.
“We definitely want to be playing our best soccer towards the end of the season,” said Kerr. “It is awesome that we are able to do that now.”
Notes: • Kaitlyn Kerr moved into sole possession of eighth on Duke’s all-time points list (76), moved into a tie for sixth on the goals chart (28) and is now tied eighth on the assist list (20). • Freshman Courtney McDaniel made her collegiate debut after being injured last season. • Duke scored a season-high six goals. The six goals was a season-high allowed for Pitt. • A total of 22 players played on the day for Duke. • Kelly Cobb totaled six points on the day, while Kaitlyn Kerr added five. • Duke had scored only seven first half goals against ACC opponents prior to the six today.