SOUTH BEND, Ind.-The Blue Devils defense turned in a solid performance behind senior goalkeeper James Belshaw's seven saves, but a goal from Notre Dame in the 76th minute lifted the 18th-ranked Irish to a 1-0 win over No. 21 Duke in the Blue Devils' men's soccer season opener this evening at Alumni Stadium.
Notre Dame (1-0-0) senior Ryan Finley netted the lone goal of the game in the 76th minute off of a pass from Harrison Shipp. Duke starts the year at 0-1-0 before making its home debut next weekend in the John Rennie Nike Invitational.
The Blue Devils started seven underclassmen, five sophomores and two freshmen, and played 10 underclassmen overall.
"[Belshaw] did really well tonight and I thought [Sebastien] and [Zach Mathers] played well and Sean Davis was immense," head coach John Kerr said. "We're a really young squad and I think this game will be good for us down the road. We did well to hold off a senior laden squad like Notre Dame for 75 minutes and we can learn a lot from this game."
The Irish came out strong and generated a couple of quality chances 10 minutes into the contest, but preseason All-America pick Belshaw made a pair of spectacular saves to keep Notre Dame off the scoreboard. The Blue Devils' backline did well to continue to stifle the Irish offense that had five goals in its three exhibition games over the next 10 minutes.
Duke's first shot came off the foot of Nick Palodichuk with nearly 17 minutes remaining in the opening stanza and Jack Coleman, coming off the bench, had a look from the right wing late in the half that was wide of the right post.
Notre Dame developed a rhythm late in the first half, but Duke's defense against stepped up to keep the Irish from getting clear looks at the net and sent the teams into the break in a scoreless tie.
The Blue Devils had their best look of the game early in the second half as Riley Wolfe one-timed a shot from the top of the 18-yard box that sailed just over the crossbar. Duke started to possess the ball well early in the second half, but was unable to connect on the final pass in the attacking third.
With the game still scoreless with over 20 minutes to play Belshaw came up big again for the Blue Devils as he stopped a one-on-one with Finley and made an outstanding save on point-blank shot from 12 yards off the foot of Dillon Powers.
After being stopped by Belshaw and the Duke defense for over 70 minutes, Notre Dame broke through as Powers found Shipp on the right wing. Shipp slotted the ball across the box where Finley slipped it past a diving Belshaw for the 1-0 lead.
Duke pressed forward in the final 15 minutes, but could not come up with any shots in the 1-0 loss. Overall for the game, Notre Dame held an 18-4 advantage in shots and an 11-1 edge in corner kicks. Will Walsh did not make a save for the Irish to post his first shutout of the season.
The Blue Devils open their home schedule with Santa Clara in the John Rennie Invitational Aug. 31 at 7:30 p.m. The Blue Devil Army fan club will make its debut this weekend with members receiving a t-shirt and scarf and free food prior to the game. Visit www.bluedevilarmy.com for complete details.
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