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Natalie Bode | | September 23, 2021

'It’s a Duke era' — Blue Devils women's soccer looks ahead after shocking North Carolina

Duke women's soccer's Caitlin Cosme on team's hot start: 'We’re not stopping'

Prior to last Friday, North Carolina women's soccer had never been defeated on Dorrance Field, which was dedicated on Sept. 29, 2019.

The Tar Heels had not lost an ACC regular season game in about 1,800 days.

Duke had not defeated North Carolina since 2015.

All of that changed on Sept. 17, when No. 4 Duke blanked rival No. 2 North Carolina 1-0 in an instant classic top-5 edition of the Tobacco Road rivalry.

Duke closed what had been a dominant streak from the Tar Heels in the last five years in front of a rowdy home crowd of over 5,000 people in Chapel Hill. Although North Carolina still leads the series, senior defender Caitlin Cosme of Duke believes that all of that can change in the future.

"There’s a new era, and it’s a Duke era."

Duke has posted a 7-0 start this season, marking the second-most wins to kick off a campaign in program history. This game also marked Duke's fifth all-time win against an opponent ranked No. 2 or higher in the United Soccer Coaches poll.

RIVALRY RECAP: How Duke beat North Carolina

After the win, Duke and North Carolina flipped rankings, moving Duke to No. 2  and North Carolina back to No. 4. The implications are beyond just the rankings, as this win will begin a new chapter for Duke in the famous rivalry.

"Fans were heckling us, booing us as we're walking on the field just to warm up. We all looked at each other and we were just like, 'Wow, this is awesome,' " Cosme said. "We weren't angry. This is exactly why we came to Duke and why we play in the ACC, for this rivalry and for this moment right now."

For Blue Devils fans, there is plenty of reason to believe that it could now be Duke's time to write history.

As a veteran member of the Blue Devil's squad, fifth year defender Cosme believes this 2021 team is ready to set a new standard for the program in the rivalry and beyond.

"I think we're just ready," she said. "We just have a different mentality. We're tougher, mentally, emotionally, physically and we're not scared of anybody. I think this is the first year in a very long time, or at least since I've been here since 2017, where every single person on this team is so bought in and is on the same page like, 'Hey, on any given day we can beat any team.' "

In addition to Cosme, Duke has other veteran standouts like recent ACC Offensive Player of the Week in midfielder Tess Boade as well as the ACC Defensive Player of the Week in goalkeeper Ruthie Jones. The core group of starters for the Blue Devils are returning players who all had to go through an odd 2020-21 season together.

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"The COVID-19 year really brought this whole entire squad much closer," Cosme said. "We only have four freshmen, and everyone else is a returning player from last year. I know that it sounds weird, but we're all kind of obsessed with each other. That helps when when we're on the field and we're just playing for each other and we believe in each other."

One of those freshman making a major impact is forward Michelle Cooper, who became the fourth player in program history to score in each of her first three career games. She leads the team in total goals with six and in total points with 15.

Although the win against then-No. 2 North Carolina gave this program a major boost, Cosme keeps in mind that they have yet to achieve their goals for this season: an ACC title and a deep run in the NCAA tournament.

"The sky's the limit with this 2021 team," she said. "I think that right now, this Duke team is so much different than any other duty that I've been a part of, you know, being on a team for five years, it really says a lot. You have different personalities, different personnel. And, yeah, it is a Duke era."

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