CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – When it was all set and done Thursday night, the Duke Blue Devils walked away with one extra passenger on the bus ride home: the ACC regular season championship trophy.
Thanks to a Kat McDonald goal in the 87th minute, the Blue Devils (17-1-0, 10-0-0 ACC) won their 17th-straight game and captured their first conference title since the 2011 season and third in program history, defeating No. 10 Virginia (10-4-4, 5-2-3 ACC), 1-0.
With the win, Duke finishes the conference slate 10-0-0, becoming the first school to finish perfect in the ACC since Virginia in 2013. It caps the best conference record in school history and moved Duke into a tie for second for single-season victories in the record books with 17.
“I’m just really so proud of the players,” head coach Robbie Church said. “Since day one they’ve had a mission and it was to go 10-0-0 in the toughest league in the country. I’m just very happy for our players and our staff. Our staff has done an amazing job. Erwin, Carla and Lane have done an unbelievable job preparing the team game in and game out.
“Our players have just wanted to be great. You see their smiling faces and how happy they are, as a coach that’s the best there is.”
The first 86 minutes of play featured two of the top defenses in the country matching each other step for step. Duke reeled off several shots to start the contest and had five before UVA could get its first off. That shot came at the 34:17 mark, as the Cavaliers hit the right post and had the ball roll behind EJ Proctor but in front of the goal line, leading to a Blue Devil clearance to avert the danger.
That attempt would turn out to be UVA’s best chance at goal, as every shot in the second 45 would sail off target. Duke applied pressure throughout the second half, forcing UVA to make two saves. Then came Kayla McCoy’s run down the left side of the field. The junior, who now has tallied 13 points in the last seven contests, slid a pass into the box for a sprinting McDonald. The junior nailed her second goal of the season and her career to lock down the Blue Devil victory.
“It was a big-time feeling,” Church said on the late score. “Kayla made a great decision and then Kat finished. I’m so happy for Kat. She is one of our hardest-working players. Every training session, every game she’s worked and just keeps getting better. To see her score, it shows what hard work does.”
Also in the win came Duke’s 12th shutout of the season and eighth against an ACC foe, which sets a new school record. The 12 clean sheets move the 2017 squad into a tie for fifth in the school record book. It was also Proctor’s ninth solo clean sheet of the campaign, as the senior now has 30 shutouts for her career, moving her into third in the Duke record book.
Duke, who locked up the No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament, will now turn its attention to the eight seed Boston College Eagles.