Orange women’s soccer come up short against Duke

Orange come up short against Duke

Syracuse loses to Duke in final minute
Published: September 17, 2022
NCAA Women’s Soccer: Merrimack Warriors vs Syracuse Orange
Syracuse women's soccer, shown here huddling before the Merrimack game on Sept. 4, weren't able to find the goal in Friday's match with Duke.

Syracuse women’s soccer saw its six-game winning streak snapped on Friday night falling 1-0 to Duke in the ACC season opener.

The match’s lone goal by Duke junior Maggie Graham arrived in the 88th minute, leaving little time for SU to respond in front of a packed SU Soccer Stadium crowd.

Freshman defender Grace Gillard said she and her teammates were psyched to start ACC competition — especially facing No. 3 ranked Duke (6-2) — and  remained motivated despite the loss.

 “It’s a big step up from non-conference games, but we can fight,” Gillard said. “We know that we’re here to try to make history for this team, so we’re ready to fight.

“Everyone’s obviously gutted that the result ended in the 1-0 but everyone’s excited to get back next week and show what we can do.”  

Syracuse (7-2) opened the game aggressively, with players pumped up for the high-level competition. Four shots were attempted (with one corner kick) in the first 15 minutes as they set the pace early. 

For most of the game, the Orange was able to control ball possession as well as keep the ball on Duke’s side of the field. High pressure was maintained throughout the pitch, and the Blue Devils offense had little-to-no space as they started their plays. 

Duke generated more momentum and opportunities at the net in the waning minutes of the first half. But no goals were made, and the score read 0-0 at the half. 

The Blue Devils carried their improved play into the second half, matching Syracuse’s five shot attempts within minutes. Soon after, they surpassed that mark at seven. 

But the Orange held off their opponent’s attack and got their mojo back with twenty minutes remaining. Syracuse was looking for their shot early and often in possessions and their passion re-engaged the once-dormant student section 

After tightly contested back-and-forth action in the final minutes of play, the Blue Devils’ Graham scored off a header in the 88th minute after repeated corner opportunities. The crowd was stunned and silenced, and the Orange’s last-ditch chances weren’t enough in the final 1:44.

Despite the disappointing result, the Orange were still proud of their effort and fight against steep competition. 

“I can’t say enough about my team,” Coach Nicky Thrasher Adams said postgame.

Holding off the Blue Devils for nearly the entire ballgame with near-perfect defense, Gillard stepped up in a big way for Syracuse. Gillard, alongside graduate student Jenna Tivnan, led a formidable back wall against Duke’s star talent. 

They were rewarded in the locker room afterward for thief effort.

“We just named both of them players of the game. I thought Jenna and [Gillard] were very intentional with every moment that they had,” Adams said. “I think Gilly stepping in as a freshman next to a grad student with Jenna, she deserves a lot of credit. Gilly is the utmost professional. She is a sponge, she wants to continue to learn. And we’re extremely happy that she’s with us here at Syracuse — and we get her for 3 and a half more years.” 

Gillard echoed her coach’s sentiments postgame, appreciating the relationship she has with Tivnan, her fellow defender: 

“Jenna’s a great player on and off the field. And obviously, her being a graduate and me just coming in, she’s got a lot of experience on me. But I think together she helps guide me and I help guide her and I think the partnership we have is really good.” 

Gillard and Tivnan’s matchup on Friday night was Duke forward Michelle Cooper, a fierce offensive player who has spent time with the United State’s U-20 squad.

“We just made sure that one of us was on her at all times,” Gillard explained. “We just had responsibility and knew where she was. We were tough, gritty, and I think it paid off.” 

Adams was happy with the effort against Cooper, too.

“They were not gonna let her turn, they were going to be tight, they were going to win balls. They were going to make it extremely difficult. I couldn’t be more proud.”

The Orange continues ACC play on Thursday against North Carolina at 7 p.m. at the SU Soccer Stadium. The match will air on ACC Network Extra. 

And though Friday’s loss wasn’t easy, the team is ready to get back out there. 

“It stinks to lose in the last two minutes,” Adams said. “It’s a stinger. I’ve got a lot of tears in the locker room right now. But I just told them that it’s going to be sweeter to upset the No. 2 team than the No. 3 team … so we have another chance.”