COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The Duke women’s soccer team advanced to the NCAA Tournament second round on Saturday as the Blue Devils (8-8-5) posted a 4-3 win on penalty kicks at 24th-ranked Colorado College in front of a capacity crowd of 1,739 at Stewart Field in Colorado Springs, Colo.
After the two squads played 110 minutes with a score of 1-1, the contest went to penalty kicks.
Colorado College (15-4-3) stepped up and nailed its first two attempts, while Duke senior Mollie Pathman connected on the first kick for the Blue Devils. Junior Katie Trees had her attempt stopped to give the Tigers a 2-1 advantage heading into the third round.
Both Colorado College and Duke drained the next attempts as freshman Christina Gibbons placed in her shot and the Tigers continued to lead 3-2. Entering the match in goal just for penalty kicks for Duke was redshirt sophomore Ali Kershner. A product of Palo Alto, Calif., Kershner made a diving stop to her left on a shot by Rachel Herron in round four followed by senior Laura Weinberg hitting the back of the net.
“I was a little nervous coming in,” said Kershner. “I wasn’t sure what to expect and they had the fans back there who were awesome. It just comes down to staying composed and focused. I have taken about 500 of those [penalty kicks this season]. I tuned everyone out, did what I needed to do and it turned out awesome.”
Entering round five, the match was all square, 3-3. Kershner made a second straight diving stop, but this time to her right and then junior Kelly Cobb calmly stepped up and sank the game-winner to lift the Blue Devils into the second round by a 4-3 ledger.
“Unbelievable, unbelievable,” commented Duke head coach Robbie Church. “What a great team Colorado College is. We were lucky to be playing in the NCAA Tournament and in this incredible atmosphere. I am so proud of our team. It was a crazy game. We lost people left and right, we had to move people around that hadn’t played a lot of minutes and had to put people in positions they hadn’t played to try to plug some holes. We just kept grinding. It was a great college soccer game with great transition back and forth. We are just fortunate and look forward to moving on and playing Florida.”
It marks the third straight penalty kick advancement for the Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament. The last two were at Florida (4-2) in 2010 and versus South Carolina (4-1) in 2007. Duke went on to the next round for the 13th time out of the last 14 appearances.
“We are very proud of both of our goalkeepers, Ali Kershner and Meghan Thomas,” said Church. “We fell down in penalty kicks and then Ali brings a couple back. Kelly Cobb stepped up to win the whole thing and she stuck it like a champ.”
Colorado College opened the match on the attack and featured the more dangerous opportunities early as the Tigers took the first four shots. Cobb took two out of the next three shots but neither was on goal.
Making her first appearance since Oct. 6 at Boston College, freshman Rebecca Quinn came in the 21st minute and less than a minute later she collided with Colorado College’s Madison Whitehead. Both went down and Quinn was taken off the field with concussion-like symptoms.
Then in the 26th minute Blue Devil freshman defender Lizzy Raben took an elbow to the head and was taken off the field.
Duke was able to get on the board first at the 27:11 mark as Pathman sent a perfect free kick from almost midfield to the head of redshirt senior Kim DeCesare. DeCesare headed the ball towards the goal where Cobb headed in her seventh goal of the season to put the Blue Devils ahead, 1-0.
Shortly after the goal, Duke turned the ball over in the midfield and Colorado College found Chanisse Hendrix behind the defense, but senior Natasha Anasi came back to make a great sliding tackle to knock the ball away from Hendrix.
Duke lost its second defender of the match in the 36th minute as Pathman was taken off the field and was replaced by senior Avery Rape.
In the 42:35 mark, Colorado College was able to even the score, 1-1, as Sarah Schweiss crossed a ball from the left side where Kaeli Vandersluis found a slight angle and hit the left corner for her ninth goal of the season.
At the end of the first half, the Tigers held a 10-7 edge in shots, while the score remained 1-1.
“It was an amazing atmosphere coming out here to Colorado,” said Cobb. “There were a ton of fans and I think we played as Robbie [Church] said a collective effort. Every individual that came in played their role and played their part. It was a battle to the end as you saw with it going to penalty kicks. It was a great game. You couldn’t ask for a better game than that.”
To start the second half, both Pathman and Raben returned to the lineup after suffering injuries in the first half. A minute and 11 seconds into the second half, DeCesare was escorted off the field after suffering a bloody nose.
In a span of less than three minutes, Duke featured three excellent scoring chances from the 74-76 minute marks. Freshman Toni Payne showcased her outstanding footwork as she beat three Tiger defenders and sent a shot just over the right corner of the goal. Then Weinberg rocketed a right-footed shot from the 19-yard mark that was right at Colorado College keeper Kate Scheele. Scheele grabbed and bobbled the ball, but hung on.
Then redshirt freshman Danielle Duhl took her second shot of the season that was heading into the top right corner of the net but Scheele made a leaping one-handed stop.
At the 84-minute mark, Cobb sent a shot towards the right side of the net and somehow Scheele blocked the attempt and the ball scooted just right of the post.
At the end of regulation, both teams had 18 shots each with Duke holding a 9-8 advantage in shots on goal.
Colorado College featured a 3-1 edge in shots during the first overtime but neither squad could get anything in the back of the net.
The Tigers opened the second overtime with a 2-on-2 chance but senior defender Natasha Anasi played good defense and Schweiss’ shot went high.
Both teams attempted three shots in the second overtime and the match ended with each having 23 shots. Weinberg and Cobb attempted a team-high five shots, while senior Kaitlyn Kerr and Payne added four attempts.
“We have done it all year; all year we have had adversity in terms of players going down,” commented Church. “We just have to keep moving people around. It was a real team effort. What a great, great team win for us.”
In goal for the Duke, redshirt junior Meghan Thomas stepped up big in her homecoming game as she played 110 minutes in the net and finished with a career-high nine saves. Scheele added nine saves as well for the Tigers.
“It was intense,” commented Thomas. “It was a lot of fun and it was definitely fun to be home and everything. It is great obviously. We are in the NCAA Tournament, you lose and you are out. I am very happy that we won.”
Duke will next face second-seeded Florida in the NCAA second round next week at a site and time to be determined.
• Kelly Cobb scored her third career NCAA Tournament goal. • In overtime this season, Duke has now posted a 1-0-4 mark. • Meghan Thomas and Lizzy Raben played in their home state of Colorado for the first time as a collegiate player. • Moved to 3-5-3 this season on the road. • Natasha Anasi started her 70th straight match. • Duke has now advanced in penalty kicks in the NCAA Tournament in five of six matches in school history.