The Blue Devils have already exceeded expectations by playing themselves into the middle of the pack in the ACC, and they will get one more chance to climb even higher Friday night.

To round out its regular season and the ACC gauntlet, No. 18 Duke will face Virginia at 7 p.m. on Senior Night at Koskinen Stadium before heading into the postseason. The Blue Devils will have to show up on both sides of the ball in attempts to defeat the 13th-ranked Cavaliers.

The Blue Devils are coming off a unimpressive 2-1 victory against an unranked Delaware team in which they had many chances to convert shots into goals, but could not find the back of the net, going scoreless in the second half. Duke will need to improve on finishing plays in order to score on the Cavalier defense that has only given up 15 goals all season.

Although Duke has fared well against nonconference opponents this season, the top tier of the ACC has still given the Blue Devils the most trouble, with all three of Duke’s losses coming against league opponents. Virginia will bring its stingy defense to Koskinen ready to put up a fight, and Duke needs to be ready for it. 

“If we win, it will be huge because it will probably allow us to play most of our games at home in the ACC tournament,” sophomore Daniele Proch said. “It will also give us a better position in the ACC standings.”

Duke (11-3-2, 3-3-1 in the ACC) is fourth in the ACC Coastal Division now and tied for seventh overall, but with three teams just one or two points in front of the Blue Devils, they could potentially jump as high as fourth place with a win Friday and earn a bye to next weekend's quarterfinals. If Duke cannot climb into the top four, it is still guaranteed to host a first-round game Wednesday even if it loses.

The Cavaliers (10-2-3, 3-1-3) are led by junior Edward Opoku—a second-team All-American who has already notched seven goals thus far—along with redshirt senior Pablo Aguilar and junior Sergi Nus with five and six goals, respectively. Senior back Carter Manley and the rest of the Blue Devil defense will have their hands full with this balanced Virginia offense, but Duke has done an effective job this season in limiting its opponents' shots. 

If Manley and senior captain Marcus Fjortoft can neutralize Virginia’s effectiveness, the Cavaliers occasionally struggle in finishing their opportunities like Duke and could go quiet. 

If the Blue Devils can pull out a victory, it will give them five wins in the last seven games of the season. With Duke in the rankings this late in the season for the first time in a while, the Blue Devils have already virtually locked up their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011 and believe they can make a run in both postseason tournaments if they stay focused and healthy. 

Virginia will give Duke its last chance to tweak errors and fix mistakes before diving into the postseason.

“Its Virginia, so there’s a lot at stake for both clubs,” head coach John Kerr said. “You’ll see a totally different intensity and a totally different game altogether.”

Andrew Donohue contributed reporting.