DURHAM, N.C. -- Led by a first-half goal by two-time All-America Natasha Anasi, Duke upset second-seeded Florida on Friday evening at Koskinen Stadium as the Blue Devils posted a 1-0 victory to advance to the NCAA tournament third round.
With the win, Duke (9-8-5) will next face Arkansas (15-8) at 1 p.m. Sunday at Koskinen Stadium. The Blue Devils carded their 10th consecutive victory at home in NCAA action and advanced to at least the NCAA round of 16 for the fourth consecutive year.
Florida came in with the second-leading scorer in the nation in Savannah Jordan, who had totaled 22 goals on the year. Jordan got the match started in the 17th minute as she headed in an attempt, but Duke redshirt junior goalkeeper Meghan Thomas made a diving stop to her left to keep the score 0-0.
Less than four minutes later, the Blue Devils would strike. Senior Mollie Pathman served a corner kick from the right side where redshirt senior Kim DeCesare was there to head it back to in front of the box. Anasi, a senior from Arlington, Texas, one-timed her second goal of the season to put the Blue Devils ahead 1-0. It marked her first career NCAA tournament goal and the fourth tally of her career.
Pathman and DeCesare added their second assists so far in the NCAA tournament. Pathman registered her seventh career assist in NCAA play to become Duke’s all-time leader in dishes in NCAA action.
“It was great. Natasha [Anasi] is a player who works really hard on defense, and to see her score was the lift that we needed,” Thomas commented. “She was amazing on defense, shut down one of their top scorers in the nation. She did everything today. I’m really happy and I’m really proud of her.”
The second half was even, but Duke featured the first scoring chance of the stanza as senior Laura Weinberg showed some fancy footwork as she drove into the box from the left side and passed to freshman Toni Payne. Payne fired a left-footed shot that Florida keeper Taylor Burke dove to her right to make the save in the 57th minute.
Florida put the pressure on Duke over the final 20 minutes as the Gators attempted five out of the final six shots but the Blue Devils held strong. In the 84th minute, Christen Westphal fired a shot at Thomas but the 6-2 netminder dove to the right and batted the ball outside the post to keep the score 1-0 in favor of Duke.
“She shot it; I just did what I was supposed to do,” Thomas said. “And it luckily it perished very far away and my team was there to clear it out.”
The Gators closed the match with an 11-7 shot advantage. Jordan was held to only three shots for Florida.
“I thought [Natasha Anasi and Lizzy Raben] did a good job,” Church said on marking Jordan. “Savannah’s a great player. She’s had a wonderful year. It took both of them, but I thought we did a good job of fronting and backing players. Didn’t let her turn, didn’t let her get space, any separation. Just did a wonderful job of keeping her, as much as you can, at bay."
Duke was led by Kelly Cobb and Kaitlyn Kerr with two shots each, while Thomas added seven saves in the net for the Blue Devils.
“We went prevent defense a little bit,” Church said regarding the end of the match. “So we took a forward off and we dropped another so we went 4-2-3-1. They weren’t getting good looks. The one the girl hit from the outside, Megan [Thomas] made a fantastic save. But it really wasn’t that good of a look. We knew if we pulled a player off, they would come down the middle of the field on us. We made a decision and we stuck with it. Fortunately, it came out to be a good decision.”