DURHAM, N.C. - After allowing two late tallies in the first half to even the score, 2-2, the sixth-ranked Duke women's soccer team registered five unanswered goals to close the match with a 7-2 stomping of national power Texas A&M on Friday afternoon on the first day of the Duke Nike Classic at Koskinen Stadium.
With the victory, the Blue Devils improve to 6-1-0 on the year, while Texas A&M drops to 3-4-0. Duke will next host UNC Greensboro on Sunday, Sept. 11 at 2:30 p.m., while the Aggies will take on top-ranked North Carolina at 12:00 p.m., to close the Duke Nike Classic.
"Man, I am proud of how they responded in the second half," said Duke Head Coach Robbie Church about scoring five goals in the second stanza.
Texas A&M opened the match with three straight shots before Duke went on the attack. Junior midfielder Nicole Lipp kicked it off with a blast from 30 yards that hit the right post, but just three minutes later the Blue Devils took the lead.
Talented Duke freshman Kelly Cobb took a great pass from sophomore Kaitlyn Kerr and beat A&M keeper Renee Mcdermott one-on-one before hitting the middle of the net. Cobb, a native of Chugiak, Alaska, notched her fourth goal over the last five matches since being inserted into the starting lineup.
"Kelly is good," added Church. "She really started off strong, ran at them and made them drop. They played a high line early and she got around them a couple of times and made them drop their line a little bit so we could play underneath."
Just over seven minutes later, the Blue Devils went ahead 2-0 as Lipp sent a free kick into the box and junior Erin Koballa made a great play with her right leg to get the ball up in the air in front of the net where Kerr headed in her second goal of the season. Kerr, a product of Bensalem, Pa., now owns six career goals in two years.
"Kaitlyn Kerr was fantastic today," said Church. "It was her best game of the year coming back from surgery in the spring and getting re-hurt in the summer. For her to come back, that was the old Kaitlyn Kerr we have seen."
Following six substitutions by Duke, Texas A&M came alive and got on the board in the 41st minute as Katie Perry hit a corner kick into the box where it settled at the feet of Allie Bailey. Bailey found an opening in the traffic and found the middle of the net to cut the Duke lead to 2-1.
With 32 seconds remaining in the first stanza, Duke tried to clear the ball from the box but it went straight to the feet of Megan Majewski who blasted in a 25-yard shot to even the match, 2-2.
At the end of the first half, both teams attempted six shots each, with Duke holding a 3-1 advantage in corner kicks.
"We told them that we played 35 minutes of the best half of the year and we played 10 poor minutes at the end of the half," commented Church on his halftime speech. "We just had to keep playing the way we did. We always sub a lot -- our kids work hard in practice and need a chance to play. Our starters are not going to be able to go a full 90 this time of year."
With the starters back in the contest to open the second half, Duke wasted no time regaining the lead as Kerr sent a long ball down the middle of the field to Cobb, who flicked it to a streaking sophomore Mollie Pathman. A Durham, N.C., native, Pathman raced towards the goal from the left side of the box and hit the right portion of the net for her second tally of the season.
Only six minutes later, Duke took a 4-2 advantage as junior Maddy Haller made a great step to take the ball away from the Aggies and run up the field. Haller, who is out of South Salem, N.Y., then sent it to Cobb who then found sophomore Laura Weinberg. Weinberg, who led Duke with 10 goals as a freshman, hit the left corner of the net for her second score of the season.
"It was kind of unfortunate that they scored those two late goals at the end of the first half," said Weinberg. "We knew we had to come out with a different mentality. We had a fighting attitude, we came out and just put the ball in the back of the net."
Duke kept coming at the Aggies and as Texas A&M tried to clear the ball in the 66th minute Cobb stepped up and made them pay as she took the ball and blasted a right-footed shot into the top of the net for her second goal of the match. Cobb's multi-goal performance was the first of her short career.
Cobb and Weinberg connected again in the 71st minute as the Alaska product sent a cross to Weinberg where she connected for her second goal of the game from seven yards away. Weinberg, who is from Boca Raton, Fla., registered her second career multi-goal contest to put Duke ahead 6-2.
Redshirt senior Molly Lester closed Duke's scoring at seven in the 73rd minute as the Atlanta, Ga., product took a long kick from Blue Devil junior goalkeeper Tara Campbell and a flick from redshirt sophomore Callie Simpkins and beat A&M keeper Jordan Day to the left post for her second goal of the season.
"We saw a lot of positives today from a lot of people," said Church. "I was very, very happy, especially in the second half when we went back to our bench and they played great. It was a really good half."
Campbell, who is out of Cincinnati, Ohio, totaled four saves on the night before being relieved in the 76th minute by redshirt freshman Meghan Thomas. After sitting out all of last season, Thomas made her collegiate debut on the afternoon. McDermott made two saves in the first half for Texas A&M before being relieved by Day, who added one save in the second stanza.
Duke improved to 3-0 at home this season. Cobb's two goals and three assists in the match for seven points equaled a Blue Devil single-game record. She tied Katherine Remy and Casey McCluskey with seven each in 1993 and 2004, respectively. The seven points is also a new Duke freshman record, while her three assists matches the Duke freshman mark.
"I think the difference in the second half was our high pressure is what paid off," commented sophomore defender Natasha Anasi. "We had our forwards and midfielders pressuring high on their defenders. When we did that we were able to turn over the ball. With those turnovers came goals."
The Blue Devils and Aggies each finished the match with 14 shots. In the first game of Duke Nike Classic, top-ranked North Carolina posted a 2-0 victory over UNC Greensboro.
Blue Devil Notes:
- Freshman Kelly Cobb now owns five goals, three assists and 13 points over the last five matches.
- Kelly Cobb's three assists matched Kelly Walbert's previous high for a Duke freshman. The seven points is a new freshman record breaking Sara Friend, Charlene Mulfinger and Katie Spencer total of six.
- Meghan Thomas, Anastasia Hunt and Erin O'Connor made their collegiate debuts in the match.
- Duke's defense allowed a season-high two goals in the match.
- Blue Devil goalkeeper Tara Campbell notched her second assist of the season and second of her career.
- Erin Koballa made her return to the starting defensive unit after coming off the bench the last two games due to an injury.
- Sophomore Alex Straton missed her third straight game with an ankle injury.
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