The Blue Devils are finally coming home.
After playing three of its nine games on the road this season, No. 4 Duke (7-2-0, 1-1 in the ACC) will take on No. 17 Maryland (6-2-1, 2-0) Thursday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. This will also be the only game of the week, giving the team a break after many weeks of double headers.
“It has been a long, long haul for everybody here, but we are looking forward to [playing at home],” head coach Robbie Church said.
Last weekend, the Blue Devils dropped the opener of their Florida trip, after being shutout by top ranked Florida State 1-0. They bounced back on Sunday to win 3-2 against Miami in an overtime thriller after junior Laura Weinberg netted the golden goal.
“For some reason, Sunday’s game was one of my top three favorite games that I have played in,” junior midfielder Gilda Doria said. “This was a golden goal, overtime and it took everything out of us to get the victory. We really left it all on the field.”
The Terrapins are currently situated at the top of the league, alongside Florida State, with two wins. They opened their conference play against North Carolina and Clemson this past weekend— holding both teams to only a single goal. The Blue Devils struggled in this aspect in their last two matchups and hope to not surrender as many goals to their opponents. Last season the team only let in 13 goals, but they have already allowed their opponents to notch nine this season.
“We are giving up too many goals. That is the bottom line,” Church said. “We have nothing but ACC games left, and we have got to make sure we do a better job defending.... I am talking about team defending. So we just got to tighten it, we are not far from being really good on the defensive side, but we are just not there right now.”
This matchup may feature a full Duke squad, after the return of Mollie Pathman and Kelly Cobb from Japan. Pathman has returned to the starting line-up and has been making the transition back into the usual rigor of practice. Cobb, on the other hand, is currently suffering from a knee injury and may not play in the game Thursday. While the swelling has reduced enough for her to practice, an assessment and decision will be made Thursday morning regarding her status. Midfielder Kim DeCesare—who sustained an injury against San Diego Sept. 9—played over 50 minutes in both Florida trip games off the bench and may see a return to the starting lineup as well.
In the meantime, the rest of the team is drawing from their Florida trip experience to prepare for Thursday.
“We are going to focus on the little things, things that we may have looked over previously,” Doria said. “Both games this weekend really showed us some of our strengths, some of our weaknesses, but I think we still haven’t shown how we can play yet, and I think that is coming. That is what we are going to work towards for the rest of the ACC season.”