Georgia soccer played a scoreless draw against No. 8 Duke in its exhibition match Friday night at the Turner Soccer Complex. The Bulldogs' match against the Blue Devils precedes their first official game of the 2019 season against Purdue on the road.
In regulation time, Friday’s exhibition match was a test of possession and communication between players in the middle of the field, with less than 20% of play held in the attacking final thirds of each team’s half of the field. Georgia recorded a total of seven shots with two on frame. Five of Duke’s nine shots were on frame, including a near-post drive coming off a Blue Devils’ corner late in the second half, which was blocked by defender Jessie Denney’s torso to keep the game scoreless.
“I would do anything for them and I laid out everything I had and I didn’t even hesitate to go [in front],” Denney said.
The game ended in a penalty kick shoot-off, which Duke won 3-1. It was determined, however, that the game was already decided after regulation time ended.
Throughout regulation, Georgia created few offensive chances but had many opportunities for defensive growth. The back and midfield lines adjusted well to a new 3-5-2 formation that relies heavily on communication between the two.
The defense and coaching staff have a positive attitude about how the new formation will play out after holding Duke to zero goals.
“I thought we did a nice job of being comfortable when we didn’t have the ball, and we kept our shape and kept organized,” head coach Billy Lesesne said. “I think [this game] was important for us to see other people. It gave us an opportunity to organize ourselves both offensively and defensively against a team that is able to pressure you in a lot of different ways.”
Friday’s match also showcased the depth of the Georgia soccer team and the range of age and talent. Seven freshman came into the second half as substitutes, as well as the only two actively playing seniors on the team.
“It was a good opportunity to expose our younger players and use a lot of our depth,” Lesesne said. “Going into it with the idea of playing with a lot of players paid off for us.”
Georgia soccer will face Purdue on the road on Aug. 22 and will host its first home game against Binghamton on Aug. 25 at Turner Soccer Complex.