The quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament concluded today as West Virginia defeated Duke, 1-0, to advance to the NCAA College Cup for the first time in program history.
The Mountaineers took the lead in the first half and, despite a strong second-half showing by the Blue Devils, maintained their one-goal lead throughout regulation to emerge victorious.
Although WVU was the stronger team in the first 45 minutes, possessing the ball in their own offensive half for the majority of the time and outshooting the Blue Devils 9-6, the game was more even than it seemed. While the Mountaineers took more shots than the Blue Devils, both teams had four shots on target. West Virginia’s Rylee Foster had four saves compared to EJ Proctor’s three. However, it was that one missed save that would end up deciding the fates of the two teams.
That missed save came in the 16th minute when Alli Magaletta scored for WVU on a set piece. The Mountaineers earned a corner and Michaela Abam’s kick was sent in for Kadeisha Buchanan, whose header was off short of the target. With her back to the goal, Magaletta half-volleyed the ball, knocking it past Proctor for the game-winning goal.
While West Virginia was the better team in the opening half, Duke came out the stronger team in the second half, outpacing the Mountaineers and testing their keeper throughout the half. Duke nearly leveled the score on a corner kick that Ashton Miller sent the in to Imani Dorsey, who headed it towards goal, but Dorsey’s shot hit the crossbar and deflected back out into play. Moments later Toni Payne then made a move on goal after breaking free of the WVU defense and took a shot from the left side of the goal box, but Foster took to the air to knock the shot over the crossbar.
Duke’s Ella Stevens came within inches of scoring for the Blue Devils when she flicked the ball to herself and then blasted a shot towards goal, but it hit the crossbar and deflected down before being cleared. Duke Head Coach Robbie Church seemed to think the ball crossed the line prior to being cleared, but the referee disagreed and Duke remained scoreless.
Magaletta nearly doubled West Virginia’s lead with less than 10 minutes on the clock when Proctor came well off her line and attempted to jump on the ball, but came up empty. Magaletta ended up with the ball at her feet and an open goal in front of her, but she sent the ball just high.
As the final minutes ticked off the clock, Duke became even hungrier for an equalizer, and Stevens nearly had one with just over three minutes left. However, her shot went over the crossbar, and Duke remained scoreless. With all the opportunities Duke had on goal in the second half, if their finishing had been better, there is a very good chance they would have walked away with the win. However, the Blue Devil finishing was off and WVU’s defense was on, and that ended up being the fatal combination for Duke.
When the final whistle blew, Duke had failed to level the score, and West Virginia won, 1-0. The win advances them to the semifinals of the College Cup, where they will face the UNC Tar Heels on Friday, December 2.