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Duke men’s soccer unable to finish opportunities in overtime loss to Kentucky

www.dukechronicle.com

After a long week of persistent precipitation, the weather finally cleared up for a battle between Duke and Kentucky. 

Home field advantage at Koskinen Stadium could not push the Blue Devils over the top, though, as Duke fell 1-0 in overtime Friday night. The match came nearly five months after the Blue Devils’ 4-2 loss to the Wildcats to open the fall campaign Sept. 21. With the two teams originally scheduled to play again Oct. 30 before COVID-19 issues on Kentucky’s end forced a postponement, this rematch was a long time coming.

In the end, only six minutes of overtime were needed Friday for the Wildcats to clinch the season sweep, with Kentucky forward Daniel Evans scoring a game-winning high right goal off of a throw-in.

The Blue Devil offensive line was unrelenting in both their stamina and drive to the goal throughout the night, while their defensive line remained intuitive and prepared for the Wildcats’ quick-footed maneuvers. With its 0-0 tie against Charlotte last Friday fresh on its mind, Duke played energetically, swiftly retrieving the ball from Kentucky and getting plenty of shot opportunities.

However, finishing those opportunities remains a recurring issue for the Blue Devils.

“My thought is that we need to continue to kind of work out little pathways to goal, from running off the ball and timing in the final third,” Duke head coach John Kerr said.“We’re getting up the field pretty well and balanced, but just the end product is missing and that is something that we can work on and continue to develop.”

With Duke taking nine shots on the night, there were a multitude of chances to score. The first opportunity came in the form of a Blue Devil corner kick in the 17th minute. The ball snaked its way through a cluster of players to the other side of the sixth, where freshman defender Lewis McGarvey sent the ball over the goal. Just over a minute later, another shot by senior forward Daniel Wright was blocked by Kentucky goalkeeper Ryan Troutman. Six minutes later, freshman forward Thorleifur Ulfarsson also took a shot at low center, only to be blocked by Troutman.

Kentucky put some pressure on Duke early as well, with a low left shot by Wildcat forward Brock Lindow forcing a save by Blue Devil goalkeeper Eliot Hamill in the 22nd minute. The remaining eight shots taken by Kentucky during regulation were too distanced to pose a threat to Hamill, who blocked them with ease.

Regulation minutes proved not to be enough for either team to score. During overtime, the pattern of Kentucky taking a hold of the ball while Duke continually fighting to take the ball away continued. This persistent and aggressive game of tug in war resulted in a grand total of 10 fouls for the Wildcats and 12 for the Blue Devils. 

“We’ve played quite well these past few games,” Kerr said. “It’s going to break for us, because we’re playing some good stuff—we just need to execute in that final third.”

The Blue Devils will continue their spring season against UNC Wilmington next Friday, hoping to adopt a carpe diem attitude and seize every opportunity.

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