CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - 24th-ranked Miami played No. 15 Duke even in the second half, but two early goals were too much for the RedHawks women's soccer team to overcome in a 4-1 loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Friday afternoon at the University of Virginia's Klöckner Stadium. The third-seeded Blue Devils (14-5-2) advance to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen where they'll face the winner of Rutgers and No. 2/3 Virginia while Miami finishes the season 20-3-1.
Duke applied pressure early but redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Allison Norenberg (Palatine, Ill.) made a big save less than three minutes in as Kim DeCesare snuck behind the defense but her shot was stopped. A few minutes later, freshman Lauren Mathews (Hamilton, Ohio) cleared the ball off the line after a shot from a corner kick.
The Blue Devils broke through in the 10th minute, however, when DeCesare headed in a free kick off the foot of Nicole Lipp for a 1-0 Duke lead. DeCesare struck again just under three minutes later as she one-timed a shot from the middle of the box into the corner of the net. Cassie Pecht set up the goal with a low cross that doubled the Blue Devils' lead.
Down a pair of goals, the RedHawks started to generate some offense, working the ball into the Duke end. Miami earned a corner kick midway through the first half but was unable to get a head on the cross. The Blue Devils then made it a 3-0 contest in the 27th minute when Gilda Doria turned and blasted a shot upper-90 into the far corner of the net from 15 yards out.
The 'Hawks went into the break down a trio of goals after being outshot 10-1 in the opening 45 minutes. Norenberg tallied five saves in the half to limit the Blue Devils' No. 2 nationally ranked attack while Duke also held a 7-2 advantage in corner kicks in the first half.
"I told them at halftime I wish there was something tactically I could give you or some sort of soccer advice but I can't," Miami head coach Bobby Kramig said. "At the end of the day you have to be willing to compete. This is something we've come back to several times this season. Unless you're prepared to compete, that competitive attitude and mindset, that's the catalyst for the talent, speed and athleticism, all of which Duke has, to take place. I didn't feel like we had enough players out there prepared to compete."
Miami came out aggressive in the second half, as junior Kayla Zakrzewski (London, Ont.) nearly scored less than three minutes in when her one-timer from six yards out off a feed from junior Kelsey Dinges (Smithton, Ill.) went inches wide of the right post. Duke made it 4-0 soon after however on a shot by Laura Weinberg from 15 yards out toward the far post.
The RedHawks did not go quietly though. In the 61st minute, Miami got on the board when Zakrzewski sent a long cross from near the corner flag over Duke keeper Tara Campbell's head and right to freshman Haley Walter (Cincinnati, Ohio) at the far post, where she finished the goal for her 10th of the season, cutting the deficit to three.
Miami continued to put the pressure on Duke, generating multiple chances near the goal mouth over the next 15 minutes, but the 'Hawks were unable to find the back of the net again. Norenberg stopped a Blue Devil breakaway late but that was the lone chance Duke mustered after its fourth goal as Miami fell, 4-1.
"The difference in our play in the first half and the second half was pretty obvious. We managed to get the game to open up. We took some risks, down like we were, and that's what cost us the fourth goal, but we also scored a very good goal," Kramig said. "I thought the second half was very entertaining and it was end-to-end with chances both ways and that's how soccer should be played."
The RedHawks earned all four corner kicks in the second stanza without conceding one while both sides took four shots. Duke, the defending national runners-up, finished with a 14-5 edge in shots and 7-6 advantage in corner kicks for the match while Walter led the 'Hawks with a pair of shots. Norenberg totaled a career-high-tying seven saves while suffering just her third loss of the year. The four goals allowed were the most Miami gave up all season.
"I told the kids after the game, if I didn't know better I'd say they were having fun out there and I'd say they were. I'm pleased we were able to end on that note," Kramig said. "That said, I have to give all credit to Duke. They are a fantastic team and you can see why they enjoyed all the success they had last year and we wish them greater success this year."
Miami's 20 wins this year are a school record while the RedHawks made their fourth ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament and third straight trip to the second round. Miami also won both the Mid-American Conference Regular-Season and Tournament titles in 2012. Friday's contest was the last match for senior captain Jess Kodiak (Naperville, Ill.) and classmate Kelly Sullivan (Wilton, Conn.).
"We are certainly ahead of where we thought we'd be a year ago. We knew going into the season we would be better than we were a year ago, but this much better, we overachieved for sure," Kramig concluded. "We're going to try and build on it. We've got a good recruiting class coming in next year and the talent pool will get deeper and competition for spots will tighten up a bit more. The thing at the end of the day that made it click for us this year was chemistry and great leadership. Character is what wins close games and we showed that during the season."