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Nov. 4, 2011
By Rob Daniels for theACC.com
CARY, N.C. - When the Wake Forest women's soccer team broke through and won its first ACC championship a year ago, Rachel Nuzzolese was in attendance but out of commission. It's fair to say she's making up for lost opportunities these days.
The Demon Deacons' sophomore forward, who missed the 2010 title run with a torn knee ligament, assisted her team's first goal and scored the second Friday as fifth-seeded Wake held on for a 2-1 win over top-seeded Duke and earned a return trip to the final. Nuzzolese has had a foot or head in all five of her team's five tournament tallies.
"It feels amazing," she said. "It took nine months to get back. And I did work to get back."
The Deacons will play at noon Sunday against the winner of Friday's second semifinal between Virginia and Florida State.
"We beat a great team in Duke, and we're super happy to advance and give ourselves a chance to defend our championship," Wake Forest coach Tony da Luz said.
The Blue Devils fell behind 2-0 but made a determined charge that came within about 18 inches of forcing overtime. Wake prevailed when Kelly Cobb's deftly played shot, in which she beat goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe to the ball, bounced just wide to the right.
"When we were down 2-0, we did a very good job of fighting back," Duke coach Robbie Church said. "I'm disappointed, and the disappointment starts with how we played early in the game. I don't know if it was nerves, but I felt we got outworked early in the first half."
The Deacs broke on top in the 27th minute off Riley Ridgik's corner kick, which Nuzzolese headed toward a pack on the goal's doorstep. Defender Kim Marshall then turned on the ball and headed it home.
The Devils had no reason to panic. They trailed at halftime twice during the regular season but responded to each 1-0 deficit with 3-0 second halves.
The chance for a precise repeat ended when Wake made it 2-0 by finishing a brilliant collective effort. In the 51st minute, Jackie Logue ran down a ball on the left side of the box and played it back to Jackie McSally, who one-timed it perfectly for Nuzzolese, who had time to ponder her shot and an excellence chance to keep it on goal. She did both and Duke goalkeeper Tara Campbell, author of an astounding 14 regular-season shutouts, didn't have much of a shot.
"I really don't know where the goalie was," Nuzzolese said. "I think she was playing down the middle."
Duke began its comeback bid when Kim DeCesare perfectly timed a run into the box and headed Kaitlyn Kerr's cross inside the right post with 24 minutes to play. An efficient and athletic team, Duke had reason for optimism. One first-half chance was denied when Wake defender Alisha Woodson headed a ball off the goal line. An offside call invalidated another.
"I thought we were going to come back and get another," DeCesare said. "I really did."
The Devils ran out of time as Bledsoe played through an injury sustained early in the second half. Wake's only available keeper should be OK for Sunday.
"It's tough to keep her down," da Luz said. "She rolled her ankle a bit. She has seen worse. You should see her hands."