By Nathan Keil | Sports Editor
Duke soccer was every bit deserving of its No. 1 seed on Friday night.
Hoping to keep its historic postseason run alive and avoid becoming the third Big 12 team to be eliminated by the Blue Devils in the NCAA Tournament, Baylor fell behind in the sixth minute and never recovered as Duke punched its way to the College Cup with a 4-0 win over the Bears.
Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said he loved how his team never quit after falling behind early in the match.
“Obviously proud of the team this season and what they accomplished. Obviously not the way we wanted it to go tonight,” Jobson said. “We gave up an early goal that really set us back and put us on our heels. Proud of our group and proud of how they’ve been so resilient all year. We obviously wanted to keep playing, but we lost to a really good team tonight. Duke’s a fantastic team. I’ve been saying all year that this team has a chance to win the whole thing and I’d be shocked if they don’t.”
As if the task of beating a Duke team that entered with a 22-2 record and had only allowed six goals all season long wasn’t difficult enough, it only got more difficult late in the first half.
Baylor junior forward Lauren Piercy was given her second yellow card of the match nine minutes after receiving her first, leading to her disqualification and forcing the Bears to only play with 10 players.
Jobson said having to play a man down to Duke was unfortunate, but that the team continued to play at a high level despite having a major disadvantage.
“I think it was great to see how we rallied after that and how we really played well, I thought, with 10 players. I’d like to see what this game would’ve been like if it was 11-versus-11 for more of the match, but it wasn’t and we had to deal with it,” Jobson said. “I thought we did really well with it and there were times where we looked really, really good.”
As play began, it didn’t take long for Duke to establish itself offensively.
After missing wide in its first shot attempt in the sixth minute, a second opportunity for the Blue Devils resulted in a 1-0 lead, as junior forward Kayla McCoy delivered a strike past Baylor freshman goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt.
Baylor had little room to work offensively in the first half, only managing two shots, neither on goal.
Senior midfielder Aline De Lima had both the shots, one in the 26th minute and the second in the 29th minute, but both missed wide.
Despite only managing two shots and trailing for 39 minutes, the Bears found themselves only down 1-0 at the half.
In the second half, Duke came out and scored twice early to put its trip to the College Cup on cruise control.
In the 47th minute, sophomore midfielder Ella Stevens beat Wandt with the shot for a 2-0 advantage. Then after some methodical passing in and out of the Baylor defense, senior forward Imani Dorsey got behind the Baylor backline, lured Wandt out and fired to the far side of the net putting the Blue Devils in front 3-0.
Freshman forward Tess Boade sealed the scoring for Duke in the 87th minute, when she was able to win the battle with a Baylor defender and fire a rocket past Wandt to give Duke a 4-0 lead.
Baylor did manage nine second half shots and forced Duke senior goalkeeper EJ Proctor into two saves, the last of which came in the 80th minute on a shot from junior midfielder Julie James.
But it was Proctor’s first save that was Baylor’s best chance to score. After earning a free kick, De Lima fired a rocket toward the right side of the net, but Proctor dove to her left to make the save.
Duke (23-2) advances to the College Cup, where it will meet the winner of UCLA and Princeton.
Baylor finishes its season 15-6-3 and will say goodbye to De Lima and fellow seniors defender Precious Akaniyrige, center midfielder Delanie Davis and midfielder Caitlin Schwartz, a group was special to him and will not be easily replaced Jobson said.
“We’ll obviously miss the kids – Aline, Delanie, Caitlin, Precious. We’ll miss those kids,” Jobson said. “They’re a big piece, obviously, of what we were able to do this year.”
However, Jobson and the Bears will return 22 members of the 2017 team, including seven starters and for him and Baylor, that is something to build off of.
“There will be a lot of momentum. The kids coming back know what it takes to get here. They’ve experienced it, the highs and the lows of it. There will be a lot of experience coming back,” Jobson said. “There will be some kids that didn’t get chances this year that are going to have step up in a big way next year and some freshmen are going to have to come in and step up. But the veterans that are coming back know what it looks like and what not to settle for. That’s the exciting thing moving into next season.”