DURHAM, N.C. — In a battle of two top-10 teams on Sunday, fifth-ranked Duke took down third-ranked Florida State 2-1 at Koskinen Stadium to improve to 9-1-0 on the season.
What turned out to be the game-winning gola came in the 89th minute. Blue Devil standout freshman Kelly Cobb got free on the right side of the box early and fired a right-footed attempt at the goal that hit the left post. The ball came right back to her feet and she was able to sneak the ball just inside the right post and past FSU keeper Kelsey Wys. Duke went ahead 2-0 with less than two minutes remaining.
Cobb posted her team-best seventh goal of the season and fifth game-winning goal. The 5-9 forward notched game-winning goals in each of Duke’s wins during the week. Since joining the Blue Devils’ starting lineup against Houston on Aug. 26, Cobb has either scored or assisted on 11 goals in eight matches.
“Unfortunately, it hit off the post, but I was able to get back in position and finish it off,” Cobb said of Sunday’s goal. “It is kind of a defection goal but it still counts. I am just happy we won to be quite honest. I don’t care if it was beautiful or not. We win and get the three points for it.”
Duke’s 9-1 record to open the campaign is the best start in school history while Florida State dropped to 7-3-0, including 0-2-0 in Atlantic Coast Conference action. The Blue Devils opened ACC play with a win for the first time since the 2006 campaign when Duke took down Virginia Tech 3-1.
“It has a huge heart, it has a huge heart,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said about his Blue Devil squad. “Every game we come out, we are prepared to play, they play hard. We struggled a little bit early, but we didn’t drop our heads. We are fortunate they didn’t get one or two — Tara Campbell made some saves. Our team just has a huge heart and they want to be successful. They want to figure things out. We have to get better before Miami here on Thursday night. It is an absolutely great win. We haven’t beaten them in a number of years. They are an elite program in the country — well, well, well coached. They have some fantastic players so to get a win against them is going to really boost our confidence.”
Florida State opened the match on the attack attempting the first three shots before sophomore Laura Weinberg and sophomore Kaitlyn Kerr each fired attempts. FSU then sent three more shots at Duke goalkeeper Tara Campbell, but the 5-8 junior saved all three.
“In the five to 10 minutes, we thought they were going to come out in one formation and they came out in another formation so we had to scramble and to move ourselves around,” Church said. “It is not like basketball and I could call a timeout, bring everyone over and correct it — they had to do it themselves. Once we sorted out our defensive assignments, I thought we were much, much better at that point.”
In the 32nd and 33rd minutes, Church sent four subs into the match — senior Molly Lester, sophomore Alex Straton, redshirt sophomore Kim DeCesare and senior Chelsea Canepa. The group gave the Blue Devils a boost of energy and then in the 39th minute put the Blue Devils ahead 1-0.
Straton made a great run down the middle of the field and sent a pass down to Lester on the right side. Lester fed a cross to the front of the box and Canepa fired in her 11th career goal from six yards away at the 39:45 mark. Canepa has notched two goals this season with the other coming against No. 1 ranked Notre Dame.
“At the end of the first half, what a lift our bench gave us,” Church said. “What an absolute energy they gave us — they came in, sprinted, ran, scrapped, got the goal and almost got another goal from a similar cross from the outside in. They played really, really well. It was a good team effort.”
At the end of the first half, Florida State held a 7-3 shot advantage, while the Seminoles also led in corner kicks, 3-1.
Duke kicked off the second half with seven straight shots, but the Blue Devils couldn’t get anything in the net. Florida State’s Tiffany McCarty had the Seminoles’ first shot of the second half and it was a beauty as she headed in an attempt that Campbell stopped. The ball almost got away from the Duke goalkeeper but she grabbed it before crossing the line in the 58th minute.
“At the beginning of the second half, we played great,” Church said. “For 15-20 minutes, we were tremendous, but we couldn’t get anything off of it. We were close and if we would have made it two we could have broke their spirits.”
The Seminoles kept on the attack with six consecutive shots, but the Duke defense remained solid. Cobb responded with her a shot in the 84th minute that was saved, followed by her goal five minutes later to make it 2-0.
Florida State didn’t quit as the Seminoles came right back and Jessica Price found Janice Cayman for a header from short distance just 40 seconds later to cut the Duke lead to 2-1. The Seminoles had another free kick opportunity as time was running out but it was blocked away.
Campbell finished the match with five saves, while Wys added six for the Seminoles.
“Tara was fantastic,” Church said. “The backs did a good job — Kim DeCesare, when we put her in she won a lot of head balls at the midfield. Then, getting that second goal — obviously with them scoring late in the match — how big that was.”
Only five Blue Devils attempted shots on the day with Cobb leading the way with six. Weinberg had four, while Kerr (2), sophomore Mollie Pathman (1) and Canepa (1) each had attempts. Florida State outshot Duke 15-14 for the match.