DURHAM, N.C.—The Duke University women’s soccer team scored a pair of second half goals to earn a 2-0 victory over Long Beach State in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals at Koskinen Stadium this evening. The top-seeded and third-ranked Blue Devils advance to the NCAA College Cup for the second time in program history.
Duke’s goals came seven minutes apart midway through the second half and were the 11th and 12th of the NCAA Tournament for the Blue Devils. Redshirt sophomore Kim DeCesare registered what proved to be the game winner off an assist from sophomore Mollie Pathman. Gilda Doria clinched the win with her first career goal.
Duke (21-3-1) will take on No. 1 seed Wake Forest in the NCAA semifinal, Dec. 2 in Kennesaw, Ga., at the KSU Soccer Stadium. This will be the first time the Blue Devils have advanced to the College Cup under head coach Robbie Church. Duke last advanced to the NCAA semifinals in 1992, losing to North Carolina in the championship game.
“I thought we started the game great,” Church said. “I thought we were focused. I thought we started well. The shots we had were really good shots. They were really good looks. I even liked that we finished the last 15 minutes of the half. And Carla said it best in the locker room - we’ve been a second half team. We haven’t had a start that put us way behind and the second half, just something clicks with this group. I think they felt like we were the better team. We had to finish the things. I thought we had two fantastic goals.”
The Blue Devils controlled the run of play in the first half, but were unable to find that final pass in the attacking third. Duke outshot the 49ers 5-1 in the opening period, missing a couple of outstanding chances.
Duke’s first good look came just over 10 minutes into the half off of a Long Beach State (18-6-1) miscue in the back. A failed clearance from the 49ers landed right at the feet of Duke freshman Kelly Cobb. The rookie striker took a touch and fired it on goal, but Long Beach State goalkeeper Kaitlyn Gustaves made the easy save.
Cobb had another great opportunity in the 23rd minute when Pathman found her at the top of the penalty area. Wide open, Cobb took a touch and rifled a shot and hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down in front of the goal.
The Blue Devils continued to dominate play, but was unsuccessful in that final third and headed into the locker room knotted at zero. Defensively, Duke was outstanding, allowing Long Beach State just one shot in the first 45 minutes.
After weathering a few flurries of action from Long Beach State in the early minutes of the second half, Duke took a 1-0 lead with a header from DeCesare. Pathman broke loose down the left flank and beat the Long Beach State defender to the endline and fired a perfect cross to the back post for DeCesare to head home for her fourth goal of the year.
“This one is like no other, taking my team to the final four,” DeCesare said. “I haven’t been happier. That’s the biggest goal I’ve ever scored. It was awesome.”
That goal jumpstarted the Duke attack and just over seven minutes later, Doria got into the scoring action. Doria started the play with a corner kick served into the box. The ball bounced around and popped out to Doria near the top of the 18-yard box. The sophomore midfielder turned quickly away from the defender with the outside of her right foot and struck a laser with her left foot past Gustaves.
Despite a final push from Long Beach State in the final 15 minutes of the half, Duke recorded its 16th shutout of the season. The Blue Devils did not allow a shot on goal throughout the 90 minutes of action and relinquished just three shots total to the 49ers.
In goal, Duke’s Tara Campbell did not make a save in registering her 13th shutout of the season and 21st win of the year. Gustaves made three saves in the loss for the 49ers.
Duke and Wake Forest will meet for the third time this season in the NCAA College Cup, Dec. 2 in Kennesaw, Ga.
Duke advances to the NCAA Semifinals for the second time overall and the first time since 1992 … The Blue Devils will play Wake Forest for the third time this season, splitting the two contests … Duke is 25-17 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 14-8-5 under Robbie Church … The meeting between Duke and Wake Forest in the NCAA semifinals will be the first between the Blue Devils and Demon Deacons in programs’ histories.