Twenty-five years ago, Maine's struggling women's basketball program offered Joanne P. McCallie her first head coaching job at age 26. After McCallie turned the Black Bears around and led them to six NCAA tournament appearances in eight years, she will now welcome her former team to Durham with a new squad of her own looking to make a run this season. 

Maine will visit the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium at 7 p.m. Tuesday as Duke continues a series of home games to wrap up its nonconference slate before diving into ACC action at the end of the month.

Maine has proven to be a formidable challenger this season with a difficult schedule, only losing to Miami and then-No. 8 Ohio State by 10 and 13 points, respectively. While Maine head coach Richard Barron is out on medical leave, Amy Vachon is filling in as the interim head coach this season. Vachon played point guard for the Black Bears while McCallie was the head coach and helped lead them to an upset against Stanford in the NCAA tournament.

“I’m so proud of Amy for what she’s done at Maine and what she’s doing with her team,” McCallie said. “Amy’s done a super job and she was a very special point guard to me. So, it’s really a privilege to be able to coach against her team.”

Vachon’s coaching has showed throughout the season on defense, as Maine (6-5) has held its opponents to a 38.6 percent field goal percentage and has averaged 9.2 steals a game up to this point. With Duke missing several players due to injuries, Tuesday’s game could be a closer matchup than expected.

“We’re down in numbers right now, so the whole team’s going to get an opportunity for playing time,” McCallie said. “With Emily [Schubert] out, with Becca [Greenwell] out, with Mikayla [Boykin] out, obviously there are issues there. Where there are issues, there’s opportunity.”

Duke (8-2) received devastating news after its last win against Winthrop, that freshman Boykin suffered a season-ending knee injury. With Boykin joining junior guard Kyra Lambert on the sidelines for the rest of the season and the Blue Devils' second-leading scorer—graduate student Rebecca Greenwell—out for the foreseeable future with a knee injury of her own, Duke’s backcourt will be severely limited for the time being. 

Although Duke will miss Greenwell’s ability to spread to floor against good defensive teams like Maine, the Blue Devils will not be without their leader, Lexie Brown, who received ACC Player of the Week honors for her dominating 32-point game against Winthrop last Sunday.

“Lexie’s just a great player and she’s somebody who can take over a game and control a game. When she has that real icy demeanor both on defense and on offense, she’s very, very dangerous,” McCallie said. “She can score points and also make her teammates a lot better as well, so her game just continues to grow.”

Another player who will have to step up in Tuesday’s matchup is redshirt sophomore Haley Gorecki, who has continued to increase her contributions on both sides of the ball each game. Gorecki replaced Greenwell in the starting lineup against Winthrop and produced for McCallie and her teammates, finishing with a career-high 20 points and knocking down five 3-pointers. 

“Haley’s just stepping up in her own right,” McCallie said. “Haley’s just playing her game and doing what she needs to do. She’s very talented and can play any of the guard spots.”

McCallie has confidence that Gorecki can successfully fill in for Greenwell as a shooter who will complement Brown and the Blue Devil offense. 

McCallie will get a chance to see which lineups work Tuesday with the limited amount of players she has to choose from. With more depth in the post than on the perimeter, Duke will rely on senior Erin Mathias and sophomore Leaonna Odom as well as Bego Faz Davalos, Jade Williams and Madison Treece to give Duke a size advantage over other teams from this point on. 

“Right now, [Odom] is holding down the three spot pretty well, and she gives us great quickness, athleticism and length,” McCallie said. “But we’ll see what transpires [Tuesday] night, so I think that’s part of our development.”

Duke will have to somewhat reinvent itself, and Maine will give the team an opportunity to do that. If the Blue Devils execute well even with a depleted lineup, they should be able to overcome the Black Bears based on their speed and talent.