Payne, Stevens Power No. 10 Duke Past Syracuse, 4-0
October 2, 2016
DURHAM, N.C. — Behind two goals each from freshman Ella Stevens and senior Toni Payne, the 10th-ranked Duke women’s soccer team cruised to a 4-0 victory over Syracuse Sunday afternoon in ACC action at Koskinen Stadium.
With the victory, Duke moved to 8-2-2 overall and 3-0-1 in ACC action, which continues to remain atop the league standings.
“We came out early very aggressive and had a great mentality,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church. “We pressured them early, continued to do so through the entire game and we were able to get a lot of people in the game. We had some very nice goals. We’ve lost some people and we can’t just make up for that by putting in more people. We have to make up for it by playing as a team, which is something we’re starting to do and I really like how we’re playing.”
The Blue Devils came out and attempted the first shot of the match as junior Imani Dorsey sent a cross in from the right side and Stevens headed an attempt high over the crossbar in the second minute.
After some excellent passing, Duke was able to get on the board at the 5:15 mark. Dorsey sent a pass towards the right side of the box to senior Christina Gibbons, who was able to feed a perfect cross in front of the goal where senior Toni Payne was charging. A product of Birmingham, Ala., Payne punched in her fourth goal of the season into the right corner from five yards.
“Coach has been telling us that we’ve had a good week of rest and we needed to come out for this game and try to get an early goal, which we did,” said Payne.
The Blue Devil goal by Payne was the second-quickest of the season. The fastest goal of the year so far was by Dorsey against UCF in only a minute and 14 seconds.
Duke controlled the first half holding an 11-0 shot advantage with Dorsey, freshman Olivia Erlbeck and Stevens leading the way with two shots each.
The Blue Devils came out of the gate in the second half and quickly went ahead 2-0. Rookie Mia Gyau did a great job of driving into the box and found Stevens standing at about the 12-yard mark. Stevens, who hails from Grayson, Ga., passed back to a wide open Payne, who slotted in her second goal of the match into the right corner only four minutes and five seconds into the half.
The two-goal performance by Payne is a career high for the speedy midfielder and marks the third time out of the last four games Duke has registered a player with two or more goals in a contest.
“I think it’s just being in the right spot,” commented Payne about her two goals. “Our coaches told us that in order to win this game; we needed to go through the middle and out wide to get some crosses. I think it’s just about being in and around the box, having good position and being able to finish.”
In the 60th minute, Gibbons intercepted a pass by Syracuse and threaded the needle to Stevens just inside the box. Stevens took a couple of touches and hit the lower right corner of the goal from 16 yards to give Duke a 3-0 lead. It marked the fifth goal of the season for the freshman.
The Duke defense would continue to hold strong and at the 61:16 mark Opal Curless attempted the first Syracuse (7-4-2, 0-3-1) shot of the match. Curless’ backward header was heading towards the far post, but freshman Mia Gyau cleared the ball off the line to maintain the shutout.
Stevens was not done as she took a free kick in the 70th minute from junior Ashton Miller and headed a shot at the goal. Her attempt was saved by Syracuse goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan, but she could not hang onto the ball. Stevens ran towards the far post and tapped in her second goal of the match to give Duke a 4-0 lead.
For the match, Duke outshot Syracuse, 19-2, with Stevens attempting a career-high five.
With some of the players going out, Christina [Gibbons] has obviously been a big leader for us,” said Church. “Toni [Payne] is stepping up into that role and has played really well. We put her into central midfield for the first time this year and I’m asking myself why we haven’t done that for all four years. But I am very, very proud of her, and again, Ella [Stevens] is just a good player. It’s unfortunate that we’ve lost some players but in Taylor’s [Racioppi] case, we will get her back. But I’m just proud of how our kids have stepped forward and covered for their teammates.”
Stevens’ two goals ranks tied for the third-most by a Duke freshman, while her five points is tied for fifth on the Blue Devil freshman record charts for a single game.
Duke collected its sixth shutout of the season and the third straight as junior EJ Proctor notched one save over 85:03. Rookie Mackenzie Coles came in to play the final 4:57 for the Blue Devils in goal.
“It’s definitely tough having some of our best players on the field out and our goal is to play for them and step it up even more,” said Payne. “We’re trying to get the job done and work as hard as we can for them. They’re supporting us from the side and have a great attitude about everything.”
Up next for the Blue Devils is a road match at Wake Forest Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m.