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Virginia women’s soccer grits out tough tie against No. 17 Duke

A slow start to ACC play continues for the Cavaliers in a strong defensive showing for both teams.

<p>The Cavaliers' pursuit of their first conference win will continue for at least another match.&nbsp;</p>

The Cavaliers' pursuit of their first conference win will continue for at least another match. 

In a tightly contested game Sunday afternoon, Virginia tied Duke 1-1, finding its second point in ACC play. The Cavaliers (5-3-3, 0-2-2 ACC) dealt with strong pressure from the Blue Devils (5-3-2, 1-1-2 ACC) throughout the match. Duke initially grabbed the lead in the 47th minute before sophomore midfielder Maggie Cagle cleaned up in the box with an equalizer for Virginia in the 53rd. 

It was “scarf day” at Klockner Stadium, where the first 1,000 fans in attendance would receive a free Virginia Women’s soccer scarf. The promotion enticed the crowd to come out despite a limited student population due to fall break, with a strong 1,817 fans in attendance. 

The Cavaliers started the game strong, earning a corner kick within the first three minutes of the game. However, they were unable to capitalize on the chance as the Blue Devils easily cleared it out of the box. Duke subsequently applied strong pressure throughout the first half, forcing mistakes within Virginia’s defense. However, the Cavaliers remained tough and found ways to take advantage of the Blue Devils’ pressure by sending more balls over the top and finding lanes through which they could counterattack. 

In the 28th minute, Virginia put together a strong effort with Cagle slipping a ball through to senior forward Sarah Brunner, who touched it past the keeper and found herself in front of the net with one Blue Devil defender to beat. However, Brunner’s shot ricocheted off the Duke defender, leading to another Cavalier corner kick. 

Another dangerous chance came for the Cavaliers with just 20 seconds left to play in the first half, as a ball was played square across the top of the box to sophomore forward Maya Carter, who ripped a shot low that just barely missed left of the goal. 

Virginia entered the second half seemingly in control of the game, with a shot advantage of 3-2 over the Blue Devils, and a dominant 4-0 lead in corner kicks.

The second half opened in favor of Duke, as junior forward Dieynaba Ndaw started the second half for the Blue Devils and immediately made her impact. Pressure in the 46th minute from senior midfielder Maggie Graham forced a Virginia turnover and Duke immediately went on the counter-attack with Graham finding sophomore forward Kat Rader, who chipped the ball over to a running Ndaw. Ndaw’s left-footed strike just slipped past graduate student keeper Cayla White and ricocheted off the post to put the Blue Devils ahead by one. 

The Cavaliers remained competitive and continued to apply pressure in order to find a way to equalize the score. Cagle earned a corner for Virginia in the 52nd minute. The initial corner went short before being crossed in and bounced around the box where the ball fell to Cagle once again as she ripped a shot which was deflected by senior Duke goalkeeper Leah Freeman to Cavalier freshman forward Allie Ross. Ross played the ball to McCormack who sent in a laser cross to a running Cagle, with Cagle finally finishing the ball near post to level the score 1-1. 

Most of the action took place in the beginning of the second half, as the remaining minutes were a tight defensive battle. Both teams fought hard but did not give much ground to each other. The Blue Devils had a strong chance with 22 minutes left to play, as graduate student midfielder Kati Druzina played a ball across to the head of sophomore forward Devin Lynch, who put it just over the crossbar. Virginia responded in kind with another late opportunity coming from freshman defender Aniyah Collier, who put a shot on target from outside the box but was easily saved by Freeman. 

The game ended in a tie, with both teams recording nine shots, however the Cavaliers maintained advantages in both shots on goal, 3-2, and corner kicks, 6-1.

“We fought, battled and competed,” Coach Steve Swanson said. “There’s no fault from that side. We have to be a little more consistent in the quality of our play — especially in the attacking end.” 

The Sunday afternoon game saw Virginia continue to struggle to find their first win in ACC play. The primary concern is consistently finding the back of the net as the offense has managed to score only two goals in the past five games. This recurring theme has seen the Cavaliers drop to unranked and at the bottom of the ACC through four conference games. While tying a highly-ranked opponent shows they can contend with the best, they will need to find greater success soon.

Virginia looks to bounce back and find their first win away Thursday at Clemson, a team with a  strong 3-1 record in ACC play and a whopping 14 goals in the past four games. The game will broadcast on ACCNX at 7 p.m.