Riding a three-game winning streak after a heartbreaking loss to arch-rival North Carolina, Duke must prepare to face yet another top-10 ACC opponent Saturday night in one of its toughest matchups of the season.

Duke will look to preserve its undefeated home record against eighth-ranked Louisville at Koskinen Stadium at 7 p.m. Saturday. The teams last met in the first round of the 2015 ACC tournament, a 2-1 victory for the Cardinals which saw them fend off a late Blue Devil rally. Duke enters the game ranked a season-best No. 19 and will need another strong showing to keep climbing.

The Blue Devils continued their winning ways Tuesday night with a gritty 1-0 shutout victory against Appalachian State. Senior midfielder Brian White was the game’s hero with his second-half goal, and freshman goalkeeper Will Pulisic notched his third clean sheet of the season. White has now scored six goals this season, a team high. Duke’s defense, which has looked shaky in a few games this month, returned to its early-season dominance, holding the Mountaineers to just three shots and only one on target.

“Just being locked in from minute one as soon as that whistle blows,” senior Kevon Black said of Duke’s defensive approach. “We just decided we’re not going to let them score today.”

The Cardinals (6-1-2, 2-1-0 in the ACC) were in the midst of a three-game winning streak of their own until Tuesday evening’s disappointing 1-1 draw against South Florida. Still, with their only loss of the season coming against No. 2 Wake Forest, they remain a force to be reckoned with.

Louisville’s defense, anchored by redshirt freshman goalkeeper Jake Gelnovatch, has conceded just eight goals this season. The Blue Devils (7-1-1, 2-1-0) will aim to get on the board early and keep the Cardinals’ backfield from settling into a rhythm to pull off the upset. 

Louisville also boasts a balanced attack, with three players on the roster having scored at least three goals on the season. Perhaps its most dangerous and versatile threat is junior forward Tate Schmitt, who has four goals and three assists to his name. Duke head coach John Kerr had high praise for the Cardinals’ squad.

“They’re a really good team,” Kerr said. “They’ve got some talent; they’ve got a big striker that can score goals. They, like us, beat Syracuse away, which is not easy to do. And they’re doing well this season, so I have a lot of respect for them.”

Louisville head coach Ken Lolla was Kerr’s teammate at Duke during their playing days, so this game is a matchup between old friends turned rivals. 

“We’ve had a good relationship over the years and a good rivalry as well, so it should be a great game Saturday night,” Kerr said.

Despite Duke’s recent success on the field, it has been challenged regularly. Six of the seven games the Blue Devils have played in September have been decided by one goal or less, including four wins, one draw, and one loss. Their composure in high-stakes situations late in games has keyed their winning streak and will need to be on display again in this matchup.

However, this recent stretch has taken a toll on the team physically. Kerr acknowledged that his team was displaying signs of weariness against Appalachian State and will need to be better-rested to grab a victory Saturday.

“We were really tired and you could tell out there that we were leg-weary and not as sharp as we usually are. We were very sharp in Syracuse and that took a lot out of us,” Kerr said. “It’s hard to bounce back and give your best every single game, and tonight we weren’t our best. But we got a shutout and we won, and we move on.”

With an extra day of rest for the Blue Devils and much to prove, Saturday night is a lock to feature end-to-end action in a matchup of two of the top teams in the ACC.

Andrew Donohue contributed reporting.