The nation’s greatest college rivalry is coming to Jack Katz Stadium—along with the nation’s top ranked field hockey team.
No. 19 Duke (3-5) will face No. 1 North Carolina (7-1) Friday before going against No. 15 Michigan State Sunday. The Blue Devils have yet to beat a higher-ranked opponent this season.
“We’re excited for another home weekend,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “We’re looking forward to building on our game and our strengths as we move through the season.”
The Tar Heels are coming off of a weekend in which they swept Old Dominion and Wake Forest. North Carolina sophomore Charlotte Craddock scored three goals in the two games, including the game winner against Old Dominion and both goals against Wake Forest. Craddock is one of three Tar Heels who have been honored as the ACC Player of the Week, joining senior Jaclyn Gaudioso Radvany and sophomore Samantha Travers.
“With UNC, they’re a very potent scoring team, they’re an attacking team, and we have to make sure we’re all on the same page regarding how we play as a defensive unit,” Bustin said. “We need to make sure we put more pressure on the ball.”
On the season so far, the Tar Heels have scored 37 goals compared to the Blue Devils’ 17 and have outnumbered them in shots 184-101. Despite North Carolina’s offensive prowess, the most important part of the game will be mental. “We need to control the emotion of playing UNC,” Bustin said. “Obviously it’s a very competitive match and it’s a great rivalry, but we have to stay true to what we have to accomplish in the game, and not get caught up in the emotions of it being Duke-UNC.”
And Duke cannot forget about Michigan State. The Spartans beat both American and Louisville last weekend, with sophomore Abby Barker scoring three goals. Barker is Michigan State’s lead scorer with seven goals on the season. In addition, the Spartans tout redshirt junior goalie Molly Cassidy, who was recently named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week. Cassidy has 55 saves on the season—the most in the Big Ten.
“Michigan State is a great team coming in,” Bustin said. “They have a little different style of play, but it’s one that will continue to prepare us for postseason play.”
The Blue Devils remain without freshmen Aileen Johnson, Hannah Barreca and Kendra Perrin, and sophomores Abby Beltrani, Lauren Blazing and Jessica Buttinger, who are all at the Pan-American games. Junior Grace Christus will also miss the match due to injury. All are expected to return next weekend, but Duke will need to adjust against North Carolina and Michigan State in the meantime.
“This is what it’s all about—to be comfortable and stay to our game plan,” Bustin said. “That way, we can adjust it so we can adapt our game plan to different opponents.”