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WSOC: Duke Falls in NCAA Elite Eight, 1-0, at No. 5 Penn State

Posted November 23, 2012

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— The 15th-ranked and third-seeded Duke women’s soccer team had its NCAA Tournament run come to an end on Friday evening in the Elite Eight as the Blue Devils dropped a 1-0 decision at fifth-ranked Penn State at Jeffrey Field in University Park, Pa. As the match went along, the wind picked up and the temperatures dropped as the teams went up against wind gusts over 30 mph.

The Blue Devils concluded their season with a 15-6-2 overall record, while Penn State improves to 20-3-2 and advanced to the NCAA College Cup.

“Congratulations to Penn State, Erica [Walsh] and her staff,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church. “They do a fantastic job. I don’t think we could have executed our game plan any better. We created a number of opportunities, but the name of the game is to be able to finish on your opportunities and we didn’t do that. It’s a heartbreaking loss for us; we played hard. We competed the whole time and the kids did everything we asked them to, which was to come up here in this environment and this field. But we wish Penn State luck as they move forward to the Final Four.”

Duke came out on the attack from the beginning and outplayed Penn State for the first 13 minutes of the match. Junior Kaitlyn Kerr opened the game with Duke’s first three shots, including a great one-v-one chance at the 7:52 mark, but it was saved by Penn State goalkeeper Erin McNulty.

Following junior Laura Weinberg’s shot in the 14th minute, Penn State’s Christine Nairn was fouled at the top of the box by a Blue Devil defender and was awarded with a penalty kick. Nairn hit the top right corner of the net to give the Nittany Lions a 1-0 lead. The 1-0 advantage for Penn State marked the first time in the 2012 NCAA Tournament Duke has trailed.

Blue Devil senior goalkeeper Tara Campbell then made a diving stop to her right off a Maya Hayes shot in the 18th minute to keep the score 1-0 in favor of Penn State.

Just five minutes later, senior defender Erin Koballa sent a right-footed cross into the box where senior midfielder Nicole Lipp one-timed a shot that hit the crossbar.

“The wind was definitely a factor, but I still felt like we were able to play our game for the most part,” said Lipp. “It probably affected some of our shots. We weren’t able to keep them as low, but it was definitely something to consider. But we played through it.”

For the first half, Duke held an 8-5 shot advantage and was led by Kerr and Weinberg with three shots each. After scoring four goals in the last two matches, redshirt junior Kim DeCesare was held without a shot in 23 minutes played.

Penn State came out in the second half and controlled the run of play for the first 15 minutes before the Blue Devils started to attack the Nittany Lion defense again. Weinberg and freshman Cassie Pecht attempted back-to-back shots in the 61st and 62nd minutes to give the Blue Devils their first attempts of the second stanza. Pecht, who is a product of Mechanicsburg, Pa., blasted a right-footed shot that went just outside the left post as most of the fans in the stadium thought Duke had scored when the ball hit the outside netting.

In the 70th minute, Weinberg sent a shot from the top of the box that McNulty saved but the ball popped out slightly, but McNulty stopped DeCesare’s attempt as well. Sophomore Kelly Cobb featured one of Duke’s best chances of the match in the 82nd minute as she forward drove inside the left side of the box and had a one-v-one with the PSU goalkeeper, but her shot went high over the crossbar.

Duke concluded the second half with an 11-2 shot advantage and the match with a 19-7 lead, but the Blue Devils were shutout for the fifth time this season. Weinberg led all Blue Devils with six shots, while Kerr and Pecht added three each.

“I don’t think we did a good job of finishing,” said Church. “The opportunities we had we played them up high where she [McNulty] could get to them and she was able to knock some balls down. We just didn’t finish well. We played some balls low in the corner, but she’s a good player, she’s an experienced player. She came out and covered angles really well, but we didn’t do a great job of finishing. But she caused that too.”

In goal for Duke, Campbell finished the night with two saves. She will graduate in May after leading Duke to 54 and the third-most shutouts in school history with 30. Other seniors playing in their final match for the Blue Devils were Lipp, Erin Koballa, Maddy Haller and Libby Jandl. DeCesare and Callie Simpkins are redshirt juniors and have the option to return for one more season if they decide to. Duke will lose three of its starting defenders along with their goalkeeper in 2012, but return all 10 student-athletes who scored goals if Simpkins and DeCesare return.

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