Nov. 18, 2011
DURHAM, N.C. --- The Georgia soccer team fell to third-ranked and top-seeded Duke by a 3-1 score Friday night in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Koskinen Stadium in Durham, N.C., finishing out the 2011 season at 13-7-2.
Georgia conceded one first half goal to the Blue Devils - who have never lost at home in NCAA tournament action - before Duke added two more in the second half. Georgia's score in the 81st minute came via a powerful strike by sophomore Nicole Locandro, but it wasn't enough as the host Blue Devils held on and advance to face Ohio State in Sunday's Sweet 16.
"Duke is a phenomenal team," said head coach Steve Holeman. "They're one of the best teams - if not the best team - we faced this year and they could go all the way this season. They're the best crossing and finishing team I've seen in a long time. Credit Duke - they are outstanding and played a great game. I am certainly proud of our team and what we accomplished. One game doesn't define our season. We made it to the second round of the national tournament and unfortunately we came up against an outstanding Duke team."
Georgia played one of its best 45 minutes of soccer this season in the first half vs. the Blue Devils - limiting one of the nation's most dangerous offenses to only a few chances in the opening period and keeping Duke without a shot through the first 16 minutes of action. When the Blue Devils finally began clicking, Georgia keeper Ashley Baker rose to the challenge, making several huge saves to keep the game scoreless for the majority.
Duke finally broke through with the first goal of the game in the 36th minute, as Molly Lester sent a cross inside from the right flank and the ball bounced the wrong way off a Georgia defender for the own-goal to make it 1-0. That's where it remained at halftime with shots going 7-3 in Duke's favor and Baker already registering five saves.
Georgia had a great chance at the tying goal with 27:45 to go in the second half, when Alexa Newfield drew a foul in Duke territory. The sophomore sent a long ball inside to the head of Jamie Pollock, but it was off target. With under 25 left, Ashley Miller took off on a great run through the middle and looked to drop to Newfield, but Duke intercepted the pass to keep Georgia from threatening.
Duke would then push the lead to 2-0 in the 68th minute as Mollie Pathman sent a left-footed service to Laura Weinberg, who headed it past Baker for her eighth of the season. The Blue Devils made it 3-0 in the 75th minute when Lester sent a low cross to Kelly Cobb, who set up Kaitlyn Kerr for her ninth of the season.
Locandro then got the Bulldogs on the board with nine minutes remaining as she took a pass from Jamie Pollock and rocketed it from long-range over the fingertips of Tara Campbell in goal - just the ninth goal allowed by Campbell all season and the first surrendered by Duke at home since Oct. 23.
Georgia had a few late chances, but Campbell and the strong Blue Devil back four were able to resist the threat and Duke held on for the win. Shots finished 21-7 while Baker ended with nine saves in another solid outing for the junior.
The Bulldog senior class finishes with 50 wins for their careers and reached the NCAA Tournament three out of their four seasons. Georgia was playing in its eighth overall tournament and fourth in the last five seasons. It was their sixth trip to the round of 32 as the Bulldogs are now 6-8-1 in NCAA Tournament play. Tonight was only Georgia's second road loss of 2011.
Georgia is 2-5 all-time against Duke and 0-2 in the tournament.
The Bulldogs will return 23 players in 2012, including seven regular starters.