Flirting with perfection, Florida State holds a 6-0 record and the No. 1 ranking in the nation.
In a battle of powerhouses, the No. 2 Blue Devils (6-1) will look to dethrone the Seminoles from their position atop the standings. The road matchup between Duke and Florida State marks the beginning of conference play for both teams.
“Obviously Florida State is a great team,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “Their whole set plays are very dangerous, and we’re going to have to do a good job there.”
In particular, the Blue Devils have been focusing on their throw-ins, a notable strength of the Seminoles.
“Their throw-in is so dangerous,” Church said. “You just don’t see anybody in college soccer with a throw-in like that.”
While their teammates have been working on set plays, sophomore Kelly Cobb and junior Mollie Pathman have returned to the United States. The standout pair spent the non-conference portion of the season playing for the U.S. championship team in the FIFA U-20 World Cup. In 2011, Cobb led the Blue Devils with 11 goals and nine assists. Pathman, the third-leading scorer, registered six goals and 11 assists.
Although Cobb will not play because of a lingering injury, Pathman’s status for the game remains questionable, Church said.
While Cobb and Pathman represented the United States, juniors Laura Weinberg, Kim DeCesare and Gilda Doria have carried the Duke squad with 18, 15 and 14 points, respectively. Weinberg and Doria led the Blue Devils to victory over San Diego and then-No. 8 Marquette this past weekend.
DeCesare went down with an injury in the sixth minute of the game against the Toreros. Whether or not she will play Thursday is a game-time decision, Church noted.
Florida State senior Tiffany McCarty and sophomore Dagny Brynjarsdottir pace the Seminole attack with respective point totals of eight and seven. Both players earned All-America, Soccer America and All-ACC accolades last season.
“McCarty plays at a very high level,” Florida State head coach Mark Krikorian said. “Her athletic quality coupled with her abilities in and around the penalty box are hard for a lot of teams to deal with. [Brynjarsdottir] has played very well in the midfield. She has done a very good job of controlling much of the game for us. She’s a presence in the air, and she’s also been very dangerous in and around the box.”
Awareness of McCarty and Brynjarsdottir’s movement on the field will be the key to limiting their goal-scoring opportunities, Church said.
“When balls are played to them, we’re going to have to get tight,” he said. “Tiff and Dagny like to play off of each other, and we have to be aware of their combination play in passing and moving. We’re just going to have to be very aware of where they are at all times throughout the course of the game.”
Regardless of whether Cobb, Pathman and DeCesare compete, the Blue Devils have no shortage of offensive firepower to counter McCarty and Brynjarsdottir’s sharp play.
If the Blue Devils can use that firepower, they just might knock down the top-ranked team in the country.
“Duke is a really hard-working team and has a collection of players that are willing to put up one heck of a fight,” Krikorian said. “They have a lot of different attacking weapons.”