Duke women overwhelm Pitt, clinch playoff berth

kcoons@newsobserver.comOctober 27, 2013 

— Here’s the bottom line for Kaitlyn Kerr on senior day at Duke: Two goals, one assist, one national anthem. And a 6-3 victory Sunday against Pittsburgh that clinches a berth in next weekend’s ACC women’s soccer tournament.

Junior forward Kelly Cobb contributed two goals and two assists as Duke (8-6-4, 5-4-3 ACC) put the game away early, erupting for five goals in the opening 22 minutes en route to a 6-0 halftime lead at Koskinen Stadium over the Panthers (4-13-1, 0-12). For now, the Blue Devils stand sixth in the ACC with one game remaining, Thursday night at North Carolina. But they can’t finish worse than eighth, which assures them of a postseason. And Duke will be at least .500 heading into the NCAA tournament, which coupled with an RPI of 22 as of Sunday should be enough to get them at least an at-large berth.

“It looks like we’re somewhere in there,” Duke coach Robbie Church agreed. “I told the players to clear their social calendars.”

Kerr, one of eight seniors recognized in a pregame ceremony, celebrated with the fourth multi-goal game of her career. She also sang the national anthem before a Duke game for the second time, having debuted two years ago.

“I was way more nervous for singing,” admitted Kerr, a midfielder. “I play every day.”

“Kaitlyn is a very emotional young lady,” Church said. “With senior day and singing the national anthem, I didn’t know how she would react.”

But once Kerr got past the anthem, it was down to business.

“I thought this is so easy now, we can play soccer and get on it with it,” Kerr said.

That’s exactly what Duke did, removing all sense of drama from the game with its early scoring barrage against Pitt goalkeeper Taylor Francis, a former Panther Creek High standout.

“The team came out and attacked from the first get-go,” said Cobb, who opened the scoring in just the third minute with a breakaway goal after redshirt senior Kim DeCesare led her perfectly into open space with a header from midfield.

Ten minutes later Cobb set up Laura Weinberg’s score with a long ball. Kerr added back-to-back goals less than three minutes apart by hanging around the near post and converting first a cross from Cobb and later a rebounded shot by Toni Payne.

Cobb made it 5-0 at 22:06 off assists from DeCesare and Kerr, and the rest of the day was a back-and-forth parade of substitutions as Church utilized 22 players in all.

For good measure, Duke freshman midfielder Malinda Allen scored her first career goal in the 40th minute with an impressive dribbling display through the middle of the defense. Duke outshot Pitt 24-2 for the half and 31-6 overall, forcing Francis to make five of her seven saves early. Meghan Thomas, one of Duke’s senior honorees, recorded the only Duke save in 60 minutes of work.

Pitt took advantage of Church’s generosity with playing time for his reserves in the late going, getting all three goals in the final 10 minutes, including an own goal.

It only made the final score misleading.

“We’re playing next Sunday,” Church said. “That’s all that’s important.”

Coons: 919-829-4635

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