Nov. 14, 2010

Courtesy of Duke Athletics

After battling to a 1-1 tie earlier in the season, the rematch between the Blue Devils and the Gators again went down to the wire as Duke edged fifth-ranked Florida, 4-2, in penalty kicks Sunday afternoon at James G. Pressley Stadium to advance in NCAA Tournament action.

Duke moves to 11-7-4 on the year, while Florida's season concludes with a 19-2-3 overall record. The Blue Devils last advanced on penalty kicks in the NCAA Tournament in 2006, eclipsing Louisville on Nov. 10 in the first round of the tournament. With the result, the Blue Devils have advanced to the sweet sixteen in three of the past four seasons.

"First of all, congratulations go out to the University of Florida with the fantastic game they played and the fantastic year they've had," head coach Robbie Church said. "We had to be at the top of our game today and we got by by the slimmest of margins. I thought both teams should be proud. If you're looking for a game to be a showcase for women's soccer, I really think this was a game to watch. A lot of great young ladies played their hearts out today."

After two ten-minute extra sessions could not break a 0-0 stalemate, the two squads prepared for penalty kicks. Duke sophomore Nicole Lipp stepped up first and the midfielder from Lake Forest, Ill., drilled her shot into the left corner to give Duke the early 1-0 advantage.

On Florida's first attempt, Blue Devil goalkeeper Tara Campbell made a diving save to the left on Tahnai Annis' shot to preserve the Blue Devils' lead. The two teams traded conversions on their next two attempts as seniors Meaghan FitzGerald and Marybeth Kreger both connected for Duke.

Up 3-2 in the penalty kick round, Duke senior Lynnea Pappas beat Florida keeper Katie Fraine to the bottom right to put Duke up 4-2 with two Gators left in the deciding round. On Florida's fourth attempt, Gator forward Lindsay Thompson pushed the ball wide right to give Duke the final edge and a spot in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

"Obviously, it's a tough way to win and a tough way to lose," Church added. "We were just fortunate on the penalty kicks. We work really hard on them. It gets old in practice some days, but we've been working for about three weeks for this situation."

In regulation, both teams had several close calls turned back in a tightly contested game. In the 69th minute, Duke's Gilda Doria fired a shot that was initially saved by Fraine, but the Gator keeper bobbled the ball, which found the foot of freshman Kaitlyn Kerr. Although the rookie's shot was blocked by a Florida defender, Kreger was able to fire another shot on goal, but Fraine was back in position for the save. Overall, Duke placed eight shots on goal to three from Florida.

"We did a couple little things different," said Church. "We had a couple personnel changes. One of our top players (Mollie Pathman) unfortunately got the flu out here. I'm just proud of our players. Some of our players who haven't started really stepped up. That's my definition of a team; if someone's down, there is someone to pick them up. That's what our girls did. We just wanted to compete hard for 90 minutes. We had to. If we didn't, the game would've been over early."

For the game, the Blue Devils outshot Florida 17-11, including an 11-5 advantage over the final 65 minutes. Duke keeper Campbell stopped three shots to record her eighth shutout of the season, while her Florida counterpart Fraine made eight saves for the game.

The two teams have tied both their meetings in 2010, after battling to a 1-1- decision on Sept. 17 in Durham.

Duke will face Oklahoma State in the next round of the NCAA Tournament. Game time is still to be announced.