Duke men's soccer preps for final exhibition tune-up
In their third and final exhibition contest, the Blue Devils will welcome a huge but inexperienced group of new fans to Koskinen Stadium for the Class of 2018's New Devil's Night.
Duke will take on the College of Charleston Friday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. The Blue Devils took out No. 25 Old Dominion 6-1 on the road and Radford 3-0 at home in their first two exhibitions, and they are looking to continue the momentum before the season starts Aug. 29 against Loyola Marymount in the John Rennie/Nike Invitational, hosted by Duke.
The Blue Devils will be facing a rebuilding Cougar squad that went 4-11-1 last year and consists of 23 underclassmen and only seven upperclassmen. The atmosphere promises to be a good one for Duke, with many freshmen scheduled to support the team following the annual freshman pep rally at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Blue Devils are hoping the energy in the stadium coincides with their cleanest performance of the preseason as they continue to incorporate the 13 freshmen that recently joined the squad.
"We can definitely get better. We have to keep our standards high," senior captain Sean Davis said after Tuesday's win against Radford. "I would like to see us keep the ball more [and] capitalize on more chances. We’re looking forward to [playing the College of Charleston], which will be a good test for us."
Although Duke's opponent is inexperienced, the Cougars are led by the man with the fourth-most victories among active Division I coaches, Ralph Lundy.
Lundy will have to come up with a way to slow down the red-hot Blue Devil offense that has been dissecting defenses under the direction of Davis, who facilitates many of the team's opportunities from his center midfielder position.
Duke is grateful to be able to even play a third exhibition contest, which offers an opportunity to show a level of consistency that was absent during last year's 9-5-8 season.
"It’s good for them [and] good for us," head coach John Kerr said. "They’re a very good team—very aggressive and athletic. They’ll be a good test for us going into the first game the following weekend at the John Rennie Classic."
Davis tied sophomore forward Brady Huitema with a team-best six goals last season and also added three assists. The Holmdel, N.J., native takes most of Duke's set pieces and opened the scoring Tuesday with a 30-yard free kick in the 37th minute.
Along with Davis and Huitema, the Blue Devils return key offensive contributors Nick Palodichuk, Zach Mathers, Luis Rendon and Seo-in Kim, who all were in the top five on the team in either goals or assists last year. Adding freshmen that are capable of intensifying the offensive punch like Cameron Moseley and Brian White—who both scored Tuesday night—should make Duke even more difficult to defend once the season gets started.
Despite the team's potential attacking and going forward, Kerr and his staff would like to see more improvement Friday and in practice as the season approaches.
"[We’ll look at] our offensive movement and our kind of interchanges in the attack. I thought we were a little bit stagnant going forward," Kerr said following Tuesday's win. "So I want to kind of get on the same page in that regard. We haven’t been working on the final third going-to-goal yet as much, so we’re going to work on that the next couple days."
In goal, touted freshman Joe Ohaus has been the starter thus far, but the Blue Devils have rotated heavily at the position, as they have extensively across the lineup.
Ohaus played nearly 61 minutes Tuesday night and got the win, but senior Wilson Fisher logged almost 38 minutes and also made one save as well.
But if Ohaus and the other freshmen can feed off the home crowd and perform at a high level, they will likely see their roles continue to increase. Nine of Duke's 17 regular season contests will be played in the friendly confines of Koskinen Stadium, including marquee matchups with Notre Dame and North Carolina.
The Blue Devils' rapid-fire exhibition schedule—three games in six days—is just another aspect of the preseason that should help Duke's transition to the regular season.
"That’s exactly [the type of schedule] that we’re going to face in the season going forward," Davis said. "We’ve really tried to replicate everything that we’re going to face, and I think the guys have handled it well so far."