Duke Stuns Florida State, Advances to NCAA Title Match

CARY, N.C. (goduke.com) – Duke freshman Kayla McCoy netted a first-half score and junior Toni Payne added a second in the final second to send 20th-ranked Duke to the 2015 NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship title game with a 2-0 victory over top-seeded Florida State. The Blue Devils will play Penn State for the national title Sunday at 12 p.m., on ESPNU.

Duke’s win over Florida State stopped the Seminoles’ 10-game NCAA Tournament streak. Florida State, the reigning NCAA champion, last lost an NCAA Tournament game in the 2013 title match against UCLA.

The Blue Devils, now 3-0 in NCAA semifinals, will play their second NCAA Championship game under head coach Robbie Church. Duke lost to Stanford 1-0 in the 2011 title game. Friday’s shutout was the third in the NCAA Tournament for the Blue Devils and the 14th of the year.

The Blue Devils escaped an early chance by Florida State off a corner kick, as sophomore goalkeeper EJ Proctor tipped a Cheyna Williams shot over the crossbar.

Florida State had yet another good chance to get on the board in the 17th minute when Natalia Kuikka, open near the right post, had her shot cleared off the line by Duke midfielder Ashton Miller.

After the Seminoles dominated the early action, the Blue Devils made their chances count as Payne made a great run into the box and slotted a perfect ball to McCoy. The rookie striker turned to her right to beat her defender and fired a shot into the bottom left corner for the 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute.

The goal by the Blue Devils was the first allowed by Florida State in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, stopping the NCAA record for consecutive scoreless minutes in NCAA Tournament play at 931:47.

Florida State continued to attack the stingy Duke backline, but the Blue Devils absorbed all the pressure to take the 1-0 lead into the locker room. The Seminoles held an 8-3 advantage in shots in the first half.

The Blue Devils, 8-0-1 on the year when leading at the half, nearly went up 2-0 at the 51:31 mark when Payne made a great run into the penalty box, but hit the crossbar. That shot proved to be the best chance for Duke in the second half until Payne netted the score in the final second.

Duke’s defensive efforts through the midfield and back four were outstanding. The Blue Devils closed down the open spaces and refused to give the dangerous Seminole midfielders and strikers time to create quality chances.

One of the most dangerous chances of the night came as Kaycie Tillman got loose on the right side of the penalty box on a through ball. Junior defender Lizzy Raben recovered and closed down Tillman with a sliding tackle and cleared the ball out of danger.

The Seminoles’ relentless pressure continued in the final 15 minutes, but Duke’s defense bent but never broke and sent Payne a long ball out of the back. Payne took it on the counter attack and went right to goal to ice the victory for the Blue Devils.