Crosses and kicks: ACC weekly soccer notes

Duke Photography, GoDuke.com

Duke Photography, GoDuke.com

Kip Coons, TSN Correspondent

DURHAM, N.C. – On Saturday night, when she and five of her teammates would be honored on Senior Night for the Duke women’s soccer team, Christina Gibbons stepped up to take a penalty kick in the 63rd minute of a scoreless match with fifth-ranked Virginia.

First place was at stake in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) for the fourth-ranked Blue Devils.

And with only two weeks left in the regular season, bids to the ACC and NCAA tournaments hung in the balance.

So what was Gibbons, Duke’s All-ACC defender, thinking?

“Don’t miss,” she joked.

She didn’t.

Gibbons drilled her kick into the upper right corner of the net, and that was enough to send Duke over Virginia 1-0, earning their first win over the Cavaliers in four years and beating them at Koskinen Stadium for the first time since 2008.

“This is one we really wanted,” said Gibbons, the Cardinal Gibbons grad who is one of Duke’s captains.

“Virginia is kind of a rivalry for us a little bit, a similar type of school, a similar type of program. They like to play soccer as well as we do. We definitely haven’t beaten them in a few years, so it feels good to come out here and beat a quality team, a team that obviously has had a good program for a few years, and they’re good again this year.”

Gibbons and four fellow seniors – Lizzy Raben, Toni Payne, Krysia Sikora, and Malinda Allen – were in the starting lineup.

The sixth senior honored, defender Rebecca Quinn, was on crutches for the pregame ceremony, having recently had surgery on her foot.

She and Allen will be seeking redshirt years next season.

The Blue Devils didn’t find their stride until Gibbons moved off the back line and into the midfield, where she has played considerably for the last five games because of injuries to Quinn and sophomore Taylor Racioppi.

Coincidentally, Gibbons notched a goal or an assist for the fifth straight game as the Blue Devils (11-2-2, 6-0-1) reeled off their fifth consecutive victory, ran their unbeaten streak to eight games, and solidified a one-game lead over Notre Dame atop the ACC standings.

Gibbons was named the co-Offensive Player of the Week in the ACC for her heroics.

The Blue Devils couldn’t be faulted for looking ahead to the postseason, but there’s no respite in the ACC schedule.

Duke will travel to ninth-ranked Florida State (10-2-2, 4-1-2) for a Thursday night match, and all the Seminoles have done recently is win the last three ACC championships as well as the 2014 NCAA title.

“Last time we stepped out with them, we had an epic battle,” coach Robbie Church said of Duke’s 2-0 victory in the NCAA semifinals last December at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary.

“They’re a great, great program. This is a big test for us. And then we go to Pitt on their Senior Night (Sunday). Can we handle that, and then come back here to play a great Clemson team?”

Added Gibbons, “Obviously we still want to take it one game at a time. We have Florida State next, and it’s another huge game for us. But everyone is sort of thinking each game puts us in a better position moving forward. So every time we step out on the field there’s obviously a target on our backs, but we have something to play for as well, and I think that’s really important.”

Wolfpack seniors honored

N.C. State paid tribute to the seniors on its men’s team Saturday night, and midfielder Julius Duchscherer made sure they enjoyed the festivities.

The sophomore from Weilburg, Germany, scored two early goals, giving him three in the past two games, as the Wolfpack dominated Pittsburgh 3-0.

The victory ended a three-game losing streak and gave for the Wolfpack (4-9, 1-5) its 500th win in program history.

N.C. State is the 31st Division I school in the nation to reach that milestone.

Senior goalkeeper Alex McCauley recorded the 10th shutout of his career and first of this season.

He did not have to make a save as State outshot Pitt 24-5 without yielding a shot on goal.

Duchscherer has been a bright spot in a struggling season for the Pack.

The two-year starter owns team highs of seven goals and 17 points

Prior to the match, N.C. State honored its six seniors – McCauley, goalkeeper Boo Davis, midfielder Yanni Hachem, defender Michael Hinkson, forward Travis Wannemuehler, and midfielder Lukas Zarges.

Moseley stays hot

The Duke men’s team snapped a three-game losing streak with a 3-2 victory over visiting Campbell on Tuesday night, and junior midfielder-forward Cameron Moseley maintained his torrid scoring pace.

The 6-foot-4 Moseley scored a goal in his third straight game and has four over the past six contests.

He leads the team with five goals, matching the career high he set as a freshman.

“The guys around me have been really supportive, and it’s all thanks to them that I’ve been getting these scoring opportunities,” said Moseley, whose goal came after Brian White stripped a ball from a Campbell back and found Moseley between defenders.

“We knew we’d get chances on the break,” Moseley said, “and we got two goals from it, one great goal from Jared (Golestani) and the great ball from Whitey to me for the finish.”

Duke (5-6-2, 1-4-1) will host fourth-ranked Notre Dame (10-3-1, 3-2-1) at 7 p.m. Friday.

It will be Senior Night for the Blue Devils and their last regular-season home game.

UNC pays its respects

The UNC women’s team had more than soccer on its mind when the Tar Heels traveled to Notre Dame last week.

En route the team stopped off in Cleveland, Ohio, to attend the funeral of the brother of UNC junior midfielder Abby Elinsky.

Nick Elinsky, 23, died in a car accident in Orlando, Fla., on Oct. 2.

The Tar Heels attended the funeral Wednesday, drove to South Bend, Ind., on Thursday, and then played the Fighting Irish on Friday night, losing a hard-fought 1-0 decision.

No. 18 UNC (8-3-3, 3-2-2) goes back on the road Thursday and Sunday for trips to Pittsburgh (2-12-1, 1-6-0) and Syracuse (8-5-3, 1-4-2).

Wolfpack women on brink

The N.C. State women haven’t played in the ACC tournament since 2006, because the conference limits the field to the top eight teams in the standings.

Yet with three games remaining, the Wolfpack (9-5-1, 3-3-1) stands seventh in a tight ACC race.

The ACC is not the main focus of State coach Tim Santoro, however.

“The NCAA tournament is the concern,” Santoro said.

“The ACC tournament is not really something we … if it happens, it happens. We’d like to be in the postseason in the NCAA.”

N.C. State hasn’t played in the NCAA tournament since 1996.

The Wolfpack isn’t ranked but is lurking on the fringe of the national polls, and its RPI of 28 is worthy of postseason consideration.

It’s seventh best in the ACC, better than Virginia Tech’s (30), for example.

The Hokies are ranked 24th in the latest coaches’ poll.

State has a tough finishing kick, however.

Coming off a 1-0 home loss Saturday to ninth-ranked Florida State, the Wolfpack travels to No. 8 Virginia (10-3-2, 3-2-2) on Thursday night and No. 17 Clemson (10-3-2, 4-1-2) on Sunday before welcoming last-place Pittsburgh here on Oct. 27.

“Another top-10 team, which you get used to in this conference,” Santoro said of UVa.

“You never know what the selection committee is going to think, but we’d like to believe that two more (wins) would put us in a really good spot. A win and a tie would be pretty good. Our RPI’s not going to move too much with who we’re playing coming up.”

U-20 update

All three Triangle college players who were training with the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team for the U-20 World Cup in November have officially been named to the 21-player roster by U.S. coach Michelle French.

North Carolina defender Taylor Otto of Apex and forward Jessie Scarpa will be members of the U.S. team along with Duke goalkeeper Brooke Heinsohn.

The U.S. will compete in Papua New Guinea from Nov. 13-Dec. 3. In group play, the U.S. will meet France on Nov. 14, New Zealand on Nov. 17, and Ghana on Nov. 21.

All three matches will be in Port Moresby, the capital city.

Scarpa, Otto, and Heinsohn have been training with the U.S. team all fall and will seek a redshirt season.

Scarpa has played two years at UNC.

Heinsohn and Otto would have been freshmen this fall.

Also, defender Emily Fox of Ashburn, Va., a high school senior and UNC commitment, made the U.S. team.

Three other ACC players are on the team: midfielder Courtney Peterson of Virginia, and defenders Sabrina Flores and Natalie Jacobs of Notre Dame. Scarpa, Otto, and Flores project as starters.

Top 100 freshmen

UNC was considered to have landed the No. 1 men’s recruiting class in the nation last spring.

TopDrawerSoccer.com released its midseason freshman report, and it looks like those recruiting honors can be confirmed.

Four UNC freshmen made the top 100 list, with midfielders Cam Lindley and Mauricio Pineda rated the Nos. 1 and 3 freshmen in the nation.

UNC midfielder Jeremy Kelly was No. 31, and forward Nils Bruening was No. 41.

The only other Triangle freshman to make the list was Duke midfielder Suniel Veerakone at No. 23.

All five players have been key performers this season.

Unbeaten connection

Conference tournaments are only two weeks away, and there are still five unbeaten teams in Division I, two in the women’s ranks and three in the men’s.

Former ACC power Maryland (12-0-2), now of the Big Ten, has been ranked No. 1 in the men’s coaches’ poll for the past five weeks.

Meanwhile, the unranked Bucknell women’s team boasts a 12-0-1 record and sits atop the Patriot League.

The connection?

Karli Cirovski, a junior defender who has started every match for Bucknell, is the daughter of Maryland men’s coach Sasho Cirovski.

And there’s another ACC connection.

Karli’s mother, Shannon (Higgins) Cirovski, was a two-time national player of the year during her career at UNC (1986-89) and earned 51 caps for the U.S. National Team.

She was the Maryland women’s coach for seven years before retiring from coaching in 2004.

The other unbeaten women’s team is No. 2 South Carolina (14-0-1).

The other unbeatens in the men’s ranks are No. 5 Denver (12-0-2) and No. 14 UMass-Lowell (10-0-2).