The overriding factor behind home field advantage is not the fans in the stands, but rather it is the wear and tear that the traveling team must endure just to play the game. Playing during the pandemic just exacerbates travel and places an ever more onerous burden on the visitors. That, plus the deluge, was too much for a never-in-synch Virginia team that drew Duke 1 – 1.
Virginia was the better team on the day as the team started brightly to begin both halves and the Cavs dominated the two-overtime periods and amassed a 16 – 3 shot advantage and a 9 – 3 advantage in terms of shots on goal. We had more corners as well; and if that was how we determined the winner, Cavalier fans would be singing the Good Old Song. But the team as a whole was off all game as several players kept the ball one or two beats too long before making passes, and too many times Cavaliers were caught in possession needlessly.
Some of this may be a result of poor form – Anna Sumpter and Alexa Spaanstra had their worst games in recent memory – and some may be due to personnel losses. Central midfielder Taryn Torres was again absent and replaced by Sydney Zandi who lacks the temperament to stay home and shield the back four.
This will be the last time I will mention this because it is a new season, but the loss of ¾ of a back line is huge and we have too many players who are still not comfortable in their role on this back four. Talia Staude is going to be great, but last year she was steadied by Zoe Morse. This year she has to be the steadying force and if she lacks the poise of three-year starters Morse and Phoebe McClernon, well that’s not a knock on her. She’s still growing into the role. Claire Constant lined up alongside her in the center of defense and played a fine game, winning every ball she challenged. Sarah Clark slotted in at right back and she was equally hard to beat, but she failed to attack until overtime. Hopefully she will grow into this role as well because Rebecca Jarrett needs better service than she’s been getting these past two games. The fourth starter was freshman Samar Guidry, and boy, it’s easy to see why she was the #8 recruit in the country. She possesses pace, is a fine dribbler, and she lives to attack. Think of a score-first point guard like Alan Iverson. Or if you prefer your metaphor to be sport specific, think Dani Alves. She’s going to cause ACC coaches a lot of consternation. But as a defender she needs to focus on defense first. Both good shots Duke got came off her errors, including the goal when she let Caitlin Cosme get behind her off a free kick.
Virginia’s goal came relatively early in the second half as the Cavaliers came out on fire and Duke retreated into a shell. That shell cracked when freshman Lia Godfrey picked up a ball at half field and drove to just outside the penalty box. Duke had been on their back heel all half and inexplicably the defense retreated for most of 30 yards, which Godfrey exploited. As the defense stiffened, Godfrey hit a cracker from 25 yards out. After the Virginia Tech game, Coach Swanson had said that Godfrey’s goal in that game was his favorite in recent memory. I suspect he will remember this one more.
Soccer’s a funny game, though, and that momentum that Virginia was riding evaporated within five minutes. First, Guidry failed to clear a through ball which fell to the feet of Karlie Paschall. Keeper Laurel Ivory made the save, but the ball should never have gotten that far. Did I mention that the game was played under a torrential downpour? Perhaps Guidry’s misplay could be explained away due to the rain. A minute later, Virginia had a break and Zandi, playing like the outside midfielder she usually is, vacated her spot in central mid to give support. It was a great run for a wide midfielder, but central midfielders do not have that same freedom. Duke got the ball and immediately attacked down the center. Taken together, those two miscues alone could have given Duke confidence they had been lacking. And a minute or two later, Anna Sumpter limped off the field and she didn’t return.
Duke started attacking, got a free kick, took it beautifully, and equalized. And that would be all the scoring for the game.
Or would it? Late in the half, Cam Lexow headed the ball past Duke keeper Ruthie Jones, but the ball was cleared off the line. The linesman called it no goal, but the ACC does have video review for goals and so the referee went to the monitor. Last year there were goal line cameras and this should have been an easy call, one way or the other. I have no idea what is going on with the ACC Network this season, but those cameras were MIA, the angle from the field was inconclusive (though if you at where the defender was standing, it would appear to have been a goal,) and the draw would be preserved. Duke is good at this: last year the Blue Devils had seven ties. Seven! Well, they are carrying on where they left off last year.
Some draws are victories, but this one feels like a loss. Overall, we dominated the game, but our first touch was poor across the board. It was exciting to see the speed that Guidry and Godfrey possess – Jarrett may have some competition as fastest player on the team. But there was a niggling feeling that we should have played better. Kind of like all those niggling jersey pulls that Jarrett had to withstand and that the ref never called. This team can play better. And they will get a chance when they travel to Clemson on Sunday.