Duke squeaks by Georgia Southern
Tweed-Kent scored the lone goal for the Blue Devils in the win
DURHAM, N.C. -- Duke senior Christopher Tweed-Kent tallied a goal in the 53rd minute and the Blue Devils held off Georgia State to earn a 1-0 win in the first round of the NCAA tournament at Koskinen Stadium. The Blue Devils advance to the second round to face top-ranked New Mexico.
After a scoreless first half in which Duke held an 8-3 advantage in shots, the Blue Devils needed just seven minutes to score what proved to be the game winner from Tweed-Kent. Freshman Sean Davis had the assist on the score, the first of his career.
"We had a great effort," head coach John Kerr said. "We earned that victory. We had to weather the first 15 or 20 minutes. I thought they were a good side, well organized and calm. They played some good soccer, but as the game wore on we got more into and started to dominate possession and create more opportunities.
"We regrouped at halftime and got organized and gave them less looks at goal and really dug in hard defensively. We were unlucky not to get two or three."
Duke (11-7-3) posted its 30th win in NCAA postseason history, improving to 30-23-1 overall in its 25 appearances. The Blue Devils advance to the second round for the 14th time overall and for the third consecutive season.
"I thought it was a great [effort]," Tweed-Kent said. "We came to play tonight. We want to make a run in the tournament and we put a statement out today so I think we're ready to go. I can't wait to go to New Mexico and go from there."
Georgia State (13-8-1) came out of the gates quickly in search of a quick goal. Duke junior goalkeeper James Belshaw made a big save three minutes into the game when Evan Scott got loose deep inside the penalty area and tried to find an opening at the near post.
Both teams continued to attack and both goalkeepers turned away all of the chances, combining for eight saves in the first 45 minutes. Duke won its best chance of the first half in the 26th minute when Georgia State was whistled for a foul in the penalty box. Belshaw came up from the goal for the kick, but Vincent Foermer dove to his left to make the stop and keep the game scoreless.
"It was a very good [goalkeeper battle]," Kerr said. "Belshaw did come up with some big saves late in the game and their goalie had some good saves throughout the game, especially early on to keep us at bay. He had a wonderful night and lucky for us we were the ones that got the goal."
Much like the Panthers started the game, Duke pressed forward from the opening whistle to the second half. Just over a minute into the half, freshman Nick Palodichuk struck a beautiful bending ball that hit the right post and bounced out.
Over the next five minutes, the Blue Devils won three corner kicks and had three shots. The final shot off of the foot of Davis proved to be the difference maker as Tweed-Kent was right there to put away the rebound.
Freshman Andrew Morales started the play as he found Davis' feet 22 yards from goal. Davis, seeing an opening, fired a shot on frame that was too difficult for Foermer to handle cleanly. The ball bounced out to the left and Tweed-Kent was right there for his sixth goal of the season.
"Sean [Davis] took a touch and a great hit," Tweed-Kent said. "The keeper couldn't hold it even though he had a fantastic night with a couple of unbelievable saves. He couldn't hold it because Sean hit too good of a shot. So the ball popped out and I was anticipating it so I beat the defender there and was able to whip the ball in."
The Panthers continued to push for the tying goal, but Duke's backline and Belshaw were outstanding in preserving the shutout. In the 85th minute, Belshaw came up with perhaps his biggest save of the night on an Ayokunle Lumpkin shot from eight yards out. After clearing the ensuing corner kick, the Blue Devils successfully ran out the rest of the game to post their 30th NCAA tournament victory in program history.
Duke held a 15-7 advantage in shots, while Georgia State won the corner kick battle 6-5. Belshaw finished with four saves, while Foermer had six in 90 minutes of action.