DURHAM, N.C. – A flurry of first-half goals was too much as the East Carolina soccer team fell to No. 5 Duke 5-0 on Thursday night.
“Obviously Duke is a very tough opponent and the reason they are ranked fifth in the country,” said Head Soccer Coach Jason Hamilton. “I do think that when we go back and watch the game, our team will be a little disappointed in some of the things we were not good at. Some of the controllable things that had nothing to do with how good our opponent was and more that we were not disciplined in details that help you be in the game.”
ECU sees its three-match winning streak snapped and drops to 4-3-0 on the season while Duke stays perfect at 6-0-0.
The game got off to a bad start for the Pirates as the Blue Devils struck twice in quick succession. First, in the fifth minute, Emily Royson found space down the left side of the ECU penalty area and squared a cross towards the six-yard box. Mackenzie Pluck was there to smash home Royson’s cross for the opening goal. Less than three minutes later, a long ball from Pluck was converged on by Pirates but Michelle Cooper was the first to reach it and Cooper was able to glide in and score.
ECU settled in the game after Cooper’s tally and took a pair of shots that drew saves from Duke goalkeeper Ruthie Jones, the first from Addison Salz and the second from Annabelle Abbott. But any momentum the Pirates had created was stifled by another flurry from Duke. In the 41st minute, Marykate McGuire collected a pass with her back to goal and she was able to spin and nestle a shot just inside the left goalpost. In the 43rd minute, Duke got a free kick just outside the ECU penalty area and Caitlin Cosme stepped up and rocketed a shot into the top left corner of the goal to make it 4-0 at the halftime break.
In the second half, ECU did a better job on the defensive end, holding Duke scoreless for the first 40 minutes. But McGuire added one more goal to her tally when she scored off a pass from Grace Watkins in the 88th minute.
“There’s a reason why we put games like this on our schedule so we can grow and get better as a team,” Hamilton said. “I think a lot of our young players will learn that the moment cannot be too big and it’s just another game.”
Duke finished with a 10-3 edge in shots on goal and a 12-3 edge in corner kicks. Maeve English finished with five stops for the Pirates while Jones and Maddie Nielsen combined for three saves and a clean sheet for Duke.
“Now we just have to put this one past us and move forward, get ready for the couple of nonconference games we have left and conference play beginning next week,” Hamilton added.
The Pirates will have a chance to bounce back on Sunday afternoon as they travel to William & Mary. Kickoff for that match is scheduled for 2 p.m., at the Tribe’s Martin Family Stadium.