DURHAM, N.C. — The sixth-ranked Duke women’s soccer team concluded the non-conference portion of its schedule Sunday evening with a 4-1 victory over High Point (3-4-1), behind four different players who scored goals.
The Blue Devils now boast a 5-2-1 mark and receive a few days off this week before opening ACC play Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m., versus Boston College at Koskinen Stadium.
“No question, we needed to have this game,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church. “I was really, really impressed with High Point. I thought they worked really hard and they were really bought in. Marty and his staff have done a fantastic job over there. We wish them well as they go forward and I think they’re going to win a lot of games. But, for us, we had to have this game. It was really important. We’re at the point where this is our last non-conference game. We need to send our resume to the NCAA and we need to build up wins, there is no question about it. I thought at times we played really, really well; disappointed at other times. There were some things we shouldn’t be doing at this stage, but I think for the most part and overall it was a great, great performance by the kids.”
Duke came out on the attack and attempted three shots over the first four minutes, but none were on goal. Senior Christina Gibbons featured the first shot on frame in the seventh minute that was saved by Panther goalkeeper Alex Hank.
In the ninth and 11th minutes, freshman Ella Stevens attempted shots that went wide left and then hit the crossbar, before coming down in front of the goal. High Point attempted its first shot of the match in the 21st minute off the leg of Meredith Dunker, but it was saved by Blue Devil keeper EJ Proctor.
Duke got on the board at the 27:27 mark as Proctor launched a long kick down the field where senior Toni Payne took it in full stride. Payne, a product of Birmingham, Ala., was able to beat a Panther defender and easily finished her second goal of the season past Hank. The assist by Proctor was the first of her career.
“We felt a lot better coming off [tonight],” said Payne. “That loss was tough [Friday], but we just decided to get back to the basics and just doing the little things that we knew would help us win. I think we really did that today. A little bit rocky in the first half, but I think coming into the second half we came in with more energy so that helped us.”
High Point came back six minutes later and evened the score as Allie Reagan sent in a corner kick into the box where Bri Jean-Charles headed the ball towards the left post. The Duke defense was unable to clear the ball off the line to make the score, 1-1.
The Blue Devils didn’t put their heads down and instead battled right back to go ahead 2-1 at the 35:37 mark. Freshman Olivia Erlbeck sent a great pass to an attacking Chelsea Burns, who drove into the box from the left side. Burns somehow squeezed a pass in a short distance to sophomore Kayla McCoy, who one-timed it with her left foot into the top of the netting. It marked McCoy’s first goal of the season.
At the half, Duke held a 14-2 shot advantage and Erlbeck attempted a career-high five shots.
Sophomore Taylor Racioppi registered her second goal of the season to open the second half. After an excellent pass into the box from Erlbeck, Racioppi did an impressive job of controlling the ball off her chest and finishing into the left corner off the keeper. Erlbeck, who hails from San Diego, Calif., had a career-high two assists on the night and now is tied for the team lead in dishes with four.
Duke kept attacking the High Point defense and hit its second crossbar of the evening off the leg of junior Ashton Miller in the 76th minute.
Following hitting the crossbar, Erlbeck controlled the ball and found Payne, who drove towards the goal, before sending a pass off to the left of the box to junior Imani Dorsey. Dorsey placed a cross in front of the goal to Gibbons, who finished her first goal of the season. Duke led 4-1 with under 14 minutes remaining in the match.
Sophomore Anna Munro had a great look at goal in the 89th minute that was saved, which led to a corner kick and then senior Krysia Sikora had a shot that went high to conclude the match.
Duke held a 27-6 shot advantage and Erlbeck led the way with a career-high six attempts. Racioppi (4), Gibbons (3), Miller (3), Stevens (2) and McCoy (2) each had multiple shots.
Proctor finished the night with three saves over 90 minutes.
“We’re a tired group,” said Church. “We’ve got a few little nicks and injuries, but nothing too, too major. But we’re taking two days off, which is the first time we’ve done that since we’ve been here since August. So we’ll be off Monday and Tuesday, come back and work on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. We’ve got a lot of work to do before Boston College comes in. They’re a terrific side. They’re always, especially offensively, really, really good. We look forward to it. It will be a great game Saturday night here.”
“I think with conference play we’re in a pretty good spot,” commented Payne. “We’ve definitely learned from the games that we didn’t do so well, so I think going in we’re going to do really well. I’m confident in our team. It’s going to be really good.”
Notes: • Sophomore Kat McDonald made her first start of the season • 13 different Duke players attempted shots