After six minutes, any added postseason pressure on the Blue Devils seemed to go away. From there, Friday’s demolition of the Dukes looked like the home team was just having fun.
Propelled by three scores from underclassmen Imani Dorsey, Taylor Racioppi and Kayla McCoy, third-seeded Duke blitzed James Madison 5-0 at Koskinen Stadium in the first round of the NCAA tournament. With the lopsided win against the Dukes, the Blue Devils have notched five goals in both of their last two contests and will hit the road next week to take on either South Florida or Florida Gulf Coast—the two teams square off Sunday at 1 p.m.—in the Round of 32.
“We scored some great goals tonight. It was nice to get some early and we’re finishing really well right now,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “But there were some shaky parts. I thought at times we were too excited. We were over-running. We were playing out of position a little bit and we’ll work on that next week. But you’ve got to be really happy [with the win].”
Making their collective postseason debut, Duke’s freshmen and sophomores showed no signs of nerves in the Blue Devils’ return to the NCAA tournament after being left out of the postseason in 2014. The underclassmen for Duke (11-5-4) entered the game having scored 24 of the team’s 34 goals this season and got their first taste of NCAA action, stealing the offensive spotlight yet again Friday.
The game could not have started much better for Church’s squad. Dorsey gave the Blue Devils an early lead, finding the back of the net with a curling shot from the left corner of the 18-yard box in the seventh minute.
Although James Madison (14-7-2) attempted to block the connection between the Blue Devil defenders and midfielders, the floodgates opened after freshman attacker Taylor Racioppi doubled Duke’s advantage.
In the 26th minute, the Ocean Township, N.J., native tapped the ball into an open net after dribbling past goalkeeper Ellen Forrest for her sixth goal of the year.
“[My goals and assists] are a product of how well our team has been playing,” Racioppi said. “We’ve been moving the ball, keeping possession, tearing teams apart, running through them, getting crosses. It’s just a huge adjustment to how much our team has grown throughout the season and we’re hitting our peak at the right time.”
After a Christina Gibbons penalty kick made it a 3-0 contest, freshman Kayla McCoy tacked on another goal, finishing an inviting cross from junior midfielder Toni Payne 91 seconds after intermission.
Payne put the finishing touches on the scoring for the Blue Devils, delivering the last blow with more than 30 minutes to play. The Birmingham, Ala., native controlled a cross from sophomore Casey Martinez and chipped home Duke’s fifth goal of the night in the 57th minute with a slight touch from four yards out.
Payne credited Dorsey’s early goal with giving the Blue Devils the momentum they needed to turn up the offensive pressure. She said that playing from ahead—particularly in the postseason with the season on the line—allowed Duke to play without feeling any late-game pressure.
In the defensive third of the pitch, the Blue Devils entered the game averaging 0.7 goals against and held an opponent scoreless for the 12th time this season. Friday’s win was the ninth shutout for sophomore goalkeeper E.J. Proctor, who was rarely tested against the Dukes but pulled off three saves.
Junior Rebecca Quinn returned to the starting lineup after being sidelined in Duke’s last two regular season contests due to a concussion. The Blue Devil defense managed to control James Madison forward Ashley Herndon—who entered Friday’s contest with 14 goals—efficiently as the Dukes’ top scorer only put one shot on frame.
“It was definitely very important to get a good win like this to feel comfortable,” Racioppi said. “It was good that we got some early goals because it gave us confidence as the game went on and now going into the next round, we’re feeling pretty good.”
Published on Duke’s The Chronicle