STANFORD, Calif. –Duke sophomore goalkeeper EJ Proctor stopped a pair of penalty kicks and the Blue Devils made three of their four to advance past top-seeded Stanford in a penalty kick shootout in the NCAA Women’s Soccer quarterfinals Friday night Laird Q. Cagan Stadium in Stanford, Calif. Duke advances to the NCAA semifinals for the third time in program history with the 3-2 shootout victory.
The Blue Devils will play the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed Florida State in the NCAA semifinals Friday, Dec. 4 in Cary, N.C. The game will be televised live by ESPNU and will be played either at 5 p.m., or 7:30 p.m.
“First, a big congratulations on a phenomenal program, team and year that Stanford has," commented Duke head coach Robbie Church. "Obviously they are one of the top programs in the country, they are so well-coached and organized with great players. We are just very, very fortunate to be able to go forward, but we stayed organized the whole time. We were hard to break down, worked hard defensively, we tried to catch them on the counter which we did with the first goal…very, very proud of our team and how far they’ve come this season.”
Toni Payne netted Duke’s lone goal in the game early in the first half and Proctor finished with seven saves in 110 minutes of action that ended in a 1-1 draw. Stanford (19-2-2) held a 22-8 advantage in shots, but the two teams created equal quality scoring chances throughout the game.
Proctor stopped the first Stanford penalty and forced the second wide to give the Blue Devils an early cushion. Christina Gibbons, Chelsea Burns and Casey Martinez all finished their chances, forcing Stanford to make its final attempt. Proctor had other ideas, diving to her left to make the stop and send Duke back to the College Cup.
“This game, specifically, scoring early is always nice but at the same time it puts more pressure [on us] to defend the rest of the game," commented Proctor. "Throughout the season we’ve just improved every game, from our technical abilities to being able to just fight to the end of the game. I think that’s why we came out with this one.”
Duke (13-5-5) controlled the early possession with crisp passing through the back and into the midfield, but couldn’t find any openings in the Cardinal defense. Stanford managed the first shot, but the Blue Devils backline was outstanding in the early going in keeping the Cardinal in front of them and forcing low percentage shots.
The Blue Devils, after struggling to get into the final third against Stanford, broke through with the game’s first goal in the 14th minute. Martinez collected the ball on the right side and served ball into the penalty box for a streaking Kayla McCoy. The Stanford goalkeeper came off her line, but couldn’t corral it and Payne was there on the back post to put the Blue Devils up 1-0.
Despite building quality attacks through the midfield, Stanford was unable to solve the Duke backline as it settled for shots from outside the box. The Cardinal found the equalizer in the 39th minute when Michelle Xiao got loose on the right side of the penalty area and ripped a shot past the near post for her fifth goal of the year.
Duke got an early shot to start the second half, but Stanford continued to attack feverishly through the midfield in search of the go-ahead goal. The Blue Devils were unfazed by pressure from the Cardinal, keeping Stanford from creating any quality chances.
The Blue Devils had the best chance of the second half when Gibbons collected a bad giveaway from Stanford and quickly crossed the ball into the 18-yard box for McCoy. The rookie striker was unable to convert, firing her shot wide of the goal.
Stanford’s best chance of the second half came off the foot of Xiao again. Xiao again tried to sneak one past the near post, but Proctor made the big save to force the corner kick. Proctor, who hails from Wilson, N.C., came right back and punched the service out of danger.
The Cardinal nearly got the go-ahead score in the 83rd minute with a flurry of point-blank shots. Proctor stopped the first attempt and Duke’s goal line defense did the rest to block rebounds before Proctor was able to pick up the loose ball.
Duke countered right away and nearly grabbed the lead, but Payne had a tough angle as Stanford recovered to clear the ball away and force overtime.
Ashton Miller, sending the Duke bench into a frenzy, appeared to lift the Blue Devils to victory, but the officials did not believe the ball crossed the line as Jane Campbell grabbed the ball off the line to keep the Cardinal alive.
Neither team generated chances in the second overtime, sending the two teams in the heart-stopping penalty kick shootout
Duke tied Florida State, which defeated Texas A&M 5-0 in its quarterfinal game, 0-0 during the regular season. It will be the first meeting between the two teams in NCAA Tournament action
“It’s always such an incredible experience to go to the final four, especially after not making the tournament last year," said Proctor. "It’s such a cool feeling, even more so since it’s only about 20 minutes away from campus and we get to do it near home.