Duke upsets No. 6 Gators to advance to NCAA third round
Senior Natasha Anasi’s first-half goal was all Duke’s women’s soccer team needed to defeat No. 6 Florida 1-0 in an NCAA Tournament second-round game Friday night at Koskinen Stadium.
The Blue Devils (9-8-5), making their 11th straight NCAA Tournament appearance and their 20th in school history, advance to the round of 16 for the fourth consecutive year.Duke will play Arkansas, which defeated St. John’s by a 1-0 score earlier Friday, at 1 p.m. Sunday at Koskinen Stadium.
Duke’s only goal Friday night came at 24:00 on a header by Anasi, a two-time, All-American defender, with an assists from senior Mollie Pathman and redshirt senior mid fielder Kim DeCesare.
As the team scored, the crowd erupted as Duke jumped ahead in the game. Freshman defender Christina Gibbons set up the goal by earning a corner kick hitting the ball of the Gator defender.
“I tried to put myself in a good spot to put it away off Kim’s header and it went straight off the keeper and it went in,” Anasi said.
“The goal was a really great set play, Natasha has been close so many times during set plays during the course of the year,” Duke coach Robbie Church said. “We have to flush this game as soon as possible and get ready for Sunday.”
Anasi’s goal came seven minutes after Florida’s Savannah Jordan, the nation’s No. 2 scorer with 22 goals this season, nearly put the Gators on top. But Duke goalkeeper Meghan Thomas made a diving stop to her left to keep Florida (18-5-1) off the board.
At 14:55, Duke junior forward Kelly Cobb almost increased the lead to two goals but came up just short as the Gator goalie approached..
Action picked up in the second half as Duke’s senior forward Laura Weinberg was issued a yellow card at 34:38 which was a culmination point of the stress of the game at that point.
As time increased, Florida initiated great ball handling skills weaving past Duke’s players. With under 15:00 to go, both teams increased their intensity as they are both two veteran teams.
With 29 seconds left in the game, Jordan and Anasi tumbled together both earning yellow cards.
“Savannah Jordan is a great player and there is a reason she a number two goal scorer,” Anasi said. “Even it up to the last thirty seconds the game was intense.”
Duke managed to hold off the Florida as Thomas recorded seven saves in the shutout.