Eight miles to history: No.4 women’s football Duke defeats No.2 North Carolina in record-book rivalry


The Blue Devils played true to the roots of their mascot’s name, embracing their villainous status at Chapel Hill and ending a quintessential rivalry game on Tobacco Road with a historic victory on Friday.

“To be a part of that kind of rivalry and to have this game on Friday night, the crowd was amazing. It was fun, ”said Duke goalie Ruthie Jones. “I loved all the screaming and booing Carolina fans; it was awesome. It just gives me the chance to be a part of it.

Good teams face their home audience, but great teams face the opposing audience. And after this victory, it is clear that this Duke team is something special.

Even before this game started, you could tell there was something different in the air. It all started with a sold-out Dorrance Field – the fourth-largest fan base ever seen at a home game in North Carolina, with standing places only available – a place the Tar Heels had never lost . This continued when the game’s referees were featured as the Darth Vader’s theme song playing in the background.

And once the opening buzzer sounded, it didn’t take long for everything that was in the air that night to show up on the pitch, as both teams started racking up fouls and finally, the cards.

The fouls started early and continued at a steady pace throughout the first half, as each of the Blue Bloods battled for any advantage they could find. Football is normally a game of inches and seconds, but Friday night was a game of millimeters and milliseconds.

Just over 15 minutes later, the first card was issued – a yellow on Duke’s Katie Groff. Seven and a half minutes later, the Tar Heels took their own yellow. It would have been hard to guess at the time, but these two cards foreshadowed more than a final.

And it’s not just the cards and the fouls that started in the first half. They were leaping stops from goalkeepers and masterful fences from defenses. It was a relentless sprint, especially from Duke’s freshman star Michelle Cooper, who seemed to be everywhere you looked. And it was a constant stampede, just under the severity of what you would call a foul.

When the first 45 were in place, it was clear these teams were going to leave whatever they had on the pitch; the only question left was “Who wants more?” The second half would provide the answers, but only by taking what happened in the first half and increasing it a few levels.

“We have a lot of teams that wouldn’t survive in this type of game,” said Duke head coach Robbie Church. “This team is a difficult team. They are serious, they want to win. And they bring it every day. They are as tough a team mentally and physically as we have had them for a long time.

And the second half was positive proof.

Just minutes into the second half, a tough collision forced freshman Duke Baleigh Bruster off the pitch with an apparent knee injury. Sophomore Olivia Migli, who started that game for the Blue Devils after missing the last game and a half with an ankle injury, replaced her and continued to play the rest of the game, bringing her first assist. career breakthrough in what turned out to be the game-winning goal less than seven minutes after returning to the pitch.

The intensity of the first few minutes continued the rest of the way. Each team received two more yellow cards each and the Tar Heels were also given a red card, after their first-year star Emily Murphy – who missed the game with injury – received the card while ‘she was on the bench and sent to the locker. room. The Blue Devils continued to put their bodies on the line, which is especially clear when Carolina’s Molly Baker almost had a one-on-one opportunity with Ruthie Jones – that is, until Jones steps directly in front of Baker’s studs with a sliding stopper to prevent a shot.

If the goal wasn’t enough, that stop was to answer the question: The Blue Devils wanted more. And while it took the most combined fouls in a Duke-North Carolina clash since 2004 and the most combined cards in a Duke-UNC clash since at least 1998, it was a prize this Duke team was ready for. to pay.

“They weren’t used to Duke coming after them,” said graduate student Caitlin Cosme. “And that was kind of our game plan where we said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to give it to them, we’re not backing down. We have to dive into it because we want to make them feel what they used to make us feel before. And it worked.

By the end of the night, these Blue Devils had engraved their names in the book of records. They inflicted on the Tar Heels their first loss at Chapel Hill in five years and one day. They notched their fourth victory against a ranked team this season, already tied for eighth in program history. And they tied their third longest winning streak in program history.

As Cosme so aptly put it, “There is a new era, and it’s a Duke era.” It took a 90 minute fight after years of heartache and more than a bruise or two for the players as they woke up the next morning.

But what are a few bruises when writing history?

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