No. 1 Alabama moves on to College Cup with thrilling win over No. 2 Duke


CW / Morgan Gray

The Alabama soccer team celebrates after its 3-2 win over the No. 2 Duke Blue Devils on Nov. 25 at the Alabama Soccer Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

It took overtime, and it took a lot of heart, but the Alabama Crimson Tide’s dream soccer season will continue in Cary, North Carolina. Alabama has advanced to the College Cup. 

The top-seeded Crimson Tide (23-2-1) beat the No. 2 seed Duke University Blue Devils (15-5-3) in a battle of the top two seeds in Alabama’s portion of the bracket. The 3-2 overtime victory was the first time Alabama played more than 90 minutes in 2022. It was fitting, perhaps, for the Elite Eight, and for Alabama’s 2022 finale in its home stadium.  

Reyna Reyes, the 2022 SEC Defender of the Year, scored the winning goal during extra time. 

“[I’m] just so incredibly proud of this team,” head coach Wes Hart said. “Like every coach out there, you feel like your team deserves it, they work hard, and this, that and the other, but it couldn’t happen to a better group of young women. They are class acts on and off the field. They’ve been through so much over the last few years. This is not an overnight success story.” 

“It is so awesome that we are being rewarded for the work that we’ve put in over the years,” he said. 

The first half was scoreless, like every Alabama match in the NCAA Tournament has been — except for the opening round. The Crimson Tide commanded territory and had nine shots in the half, setting the tone on offense and defense. 

In the 67th minute, forward Gianna Paul found the back of the net to put Alabama in front. Forward Ashlynn Serepca followed exactly four minutes later with a score of her own, her 10th of the campaign — she trails only Riley Mattingly Parker. 

“That’s my first big-time goal in the tournament,” Paul said. “I wanted one that meant something. It’s an unreal feeling. I can’t even express how much it means to me.” 

“[Paul] strikes fear in the opponent,” Hart said. “Her speed and her ability to stretch the game — we wouldn’t be here [without that].” 

Duke forward Michelle Cooper, who entered the quarterfinal game tied with Mattingly Parker with 17 goals, added two more to tie the match. The goals came three minutes apart and created a huge momentum shift. In spite of this, the Alabama defense stayed in the fight, and kept up the physicality it has been known for this season. Duke wasn’t able to create chances on Alabama, especially in the first half, like it has on other teams. 

“We knew that they had a lot of threats coming in because they are competing with Riley Mattingly, who’s got some of the most goals in the country,” defender Brooke Steere said. “We knew that we had to communicate — our whole back line is just absolutely insane.” 

On Cooper’s second goal, the sellout crowd in Tuscaloosa believed her to be offsides. The flag stayed down, and the game stayed tied. 

“A call’s a call,” Steere said. “It happened. We moved on, and we got the win.” 

“In the end, it’s what we do after,” Reyes said. 

That second goal made way for overtime. In the first of two 10-minute overtime periods, Alabama retook the lead. Reyes found an opening in the 97th minute and sent the ball into the net, past Duke goalkeeper Ruthie Jones.  

That was the dagger. Duke didn’t score in the second 10 minutes. Alabama moved on. The crowd, the final one at the Alabama Soccer Complex in 2022, was elated. 

“I just went for it,” Reyes said. “In that moment, I just knew what I had to do.” 

Alabama had 26 shots to Duke’s 12. The Crimson Tide took a decisive victory in the corner battle, at 15-2. Alabama goalkeeper McKinley Crone notched five saves. 

“I thought we looked a lot better than them,” Hart said. “They did not look like the same team that I watched film on the last couple of weeks. That’s because of what we did to them, the pressure we put them under.” 

“So many people, I hope, take joy and satisfaction in this win,” he said. “It was a culmination of so many things from over the years, and so many people.” 

The Crimson Tide will next play in the national semifinals on Friday, Dec. 2. Alabama will face the victor between fellow No. 1 seed UCLA and No. 3 seed Virginia. 

Questions or comments? Email Austin Hannon (Sports Editor) at [email protected]