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No. 24 FGCU falls to No. 18 Duke in second round NCAA match

GAINESVILLE — After defeating the USF Bulls 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA tournament, the FGCU women’s soccer team traveled to Gainesville to face off against the Duke Blue Devils for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.
Coming into the game looking to become the second program in FGCU history to reach the Sweet Sixteen of an NCAA tournament, the Eagles were defeated by Duke 2-0 on Friday night.

Head Coach Jim Blackenship consoles No. 12 Ally Kasun after the loss. (EN Photo / Rachel Iacovone)
Head Coach Jim Blackenship consoles No. 12 Ally Kasun after the loss. (EN Photo / Rachel Iacovone)

In a hard fought first half, with chances for both teams on different ends of the pitch, none of the eight combined shots were able to find the back of the net to open the scoring.
Seventeen minutes into the first half, Emma Blackwell played a dangerous ball into the Blue Devil 18 to Nikki Hudson. Hudson had a go for goal as soon as the ball was played in but was rejected by a diving Duke goalkeeper, EJ Proctor.
Three minutes later, Duke’s Casey Martinez stole the ball from an Eagle defender just outside the 18 and stormed into the Eagles’ box, creating 1 vs. 1 situation against Brittany Brown, but Brown was able to keep the score tied with a foot save that cleared the ball out of the danger area.
After another 20 minutes of aggressive back-and-forth play, the score remained 0-0 going into the half.
Eighteen minutes into the second half, the Blue Devils came close to breaking the deadlock when a ball reached the feet of Duke’s Malinda Allen. Allen turned and took a shot that appeared to be the first goal of the game but was deflected away by an FGCU defender. The ball then landed at the foot of another Duke player, about 30 yards away from the initial blocked shot, who was then fouled by Tabby Tindell, awarding the Blue Devils a free kick.
Duke’s Casey Martinez whipped a ball into the Eagles’ box, which took a bounce past FGCU and Duke players and was met at the far post by the Blue Devils’ Malinda Allen, giving Duke a 1-0 advantage.
In the 72nd minute, the Blue Devils had another counter attack and stormed the Eagles’ box when Emma Blackwell took down a Duke player inside the 18, awarding the Blue Devils a shot from the spot. Duke’s Christina Gibbons stepped up to the spot and blasted a shot past the left side of Brown into the back of the net, giving the Blue Devils a 2-0 lead.
No. 25 Tabby Tindell struggles to gain control of the ball. (EN Photo / Rachel Iacovone)

The Eagles fought to tie up the game and send it to overtime, with multiple shots on target and a couple of crosses into the box, but the Blue Devil backline stayed strong and held the Eagles scoreless.
The Blue Devils defeated the Eagles 2-0 and booked a spot in the Sweet Sixteen against the winner of the UF vs. William & Mary game.
“They fought us tooth and nail,” Duke Head Coach Robbie said. “That was a tough and intense game all the way around. I want to congratulate Florida Gulf Coast, Jimmy Blankenship, his staff and team on a phenomenal year. We feel very fortunate to be moving on and playing either Florida or William & Mary in the Sweet Sixteen.”
After the Eagles won their sixth consecutive Atlantic Sun Conference regular-season championship, won their fourth A-Sun Conference tournament championship and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history, the Eagles’ season was one to remember.
Brittany Brown hugs teammate Ally Kasun as their collegiate careers come to an end. (EN Photo / Kelli Krebs)
Brittany Brown hugs teammate Ally Kasun as their collegiate careers come to an end. (EN Photo / Kelli Krebs)

“I’m honestly just really proud of our team right now and where our program and these players have brought us and built here,” Head Coach Jim Blankenship said. “It’s something really special. To look back on this season, especially for the group here tonight that’s graduating, it’s just really really special.”

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