Huge first half clinches Blue Devils' ACC Tourney berth

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The whole Duke team poses for a Senior Day pre-game portrait.
  • File photo courtesy Duke athletics/Shane Lardinois
  • The whole Duke team poses for a Senior Day pre-game portrait.
KOSKINEN STADIUM/DURHAM Duke comes into its Senior Day game with Pittsburgh in yet another must-win situation.

It shouldn’t be hard since the Blue Devils are 7-6-4 (4-4-3 ACC) and Pitt 4-12-1 (0-11). But Duke had to fight very hard to beat a struggling N.C. State team 1-0 with a second-half goal Thursday night.

Today there will be an extra advantage because of the Senior Day sentimentality, with eight players playing their last home game for the Blue Devils. The game is shown on Fox Sports Carolinas.

Pitt will start freshman goalie Taylor Francis, who played last year at Panther Creek High.

Duke does take care of business this time, scoring half a dozen first-half goals en route to a 6-3 win.

Duke clinches a spot in the eight-team ACC Tournament and has likely sealed an NCAA Tournament berth.

Kelly Cobb scores on a breakaway to the left corner in the third minute off a pass from Kim DeCesare and the rout is on.

By the time she tallies her second, in the 23rd minute, She already has a pair of assists and the Blue Devils are up 5-0.

Duke outshoots Pitt 24-2 in the first half.

And it’s a good thing Duke has the pad, as the Panthers score three goals in the final 10 minutes. The first comes on a Duke own-goal.

Duke finishes with 31 shots to Pitt’s six, 12 corner kicks to none for the Panthers.

Seniors Kaitlyn Kerr, who sang the national anthem before the game, finishes with a pair of goals and an assist, while DeCesare contributes two assists.

They said it …

Duke coach Robbie Church: “We’re playing next Sunday, so I’ve told them to clear the social calendars. I think the State game may have had something to do with our start today. There was a lot of emotion. We just needed to get that first goal. This was a big Senior Day with a lot of emotion.”

Cobb: “I thought the team had a great first half. We came out and attacked from the get-go. This game was very important for us to make the NCAA Tournament, and I think we came out and showed how important it was. … It’s amazing how we’ve come back. It’s been an up-and-down season but the challenges have made us better. I’m glad we’re playing well at the end of the season.”

Kerr: “I think singing the national anthem was a great honor. It’s awesome to be a Duke student-athlete and represent them that way. I was way more nervous for singing than playing the game. After that was over, soccer was easy.”

What does it all mean?
That Duke will get to play at least three really big games over the next few weeks.

Stars of the game

1. Cobb.
2. Kerr.
3. DeCesare.

Play of the game
Cobb’s quick goal.

Streaks
Duke: Won 3.
Pitt: Lost 11.

Series
Duke leads 1-0.

Up next
Duke at UNC, Thursday, 7 p.m.
Pitt at Maryland, Thursday, 7 p.m.

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