After playing five games missing six players, the Blue Devils will finally bring a full roster to the field this weekend.
Back at full throttle, the No. 21 Blue Devils (4-6, 0-2 in the ACC) will face Boston College (5-5, 0-2) Friday and Kent State (5-7) Sunday. Six Duke players participated in the Junior Pan-American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, representing the United States and Canada. Both teams posted top-three finishes, qualifying for the Junior World Cup alongside champion Argentina.
“Now we get to interchange people, which is something we haven’t been able to do, so we’ll get more energy and stronger efforts from people when they know they can rotate through,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said.
The Blue Devils and the Eagles are both searching for their first conference win of the season. Duke was handed tough defeats by No. 15 Wake Forest and No. 2 North Carolina, and Boston College has lost to No. 4 Maryland and No. 7 Virginia.
The Eagles feature a balanced attack, with six players who have tallied six or more points this season. Senior Jacqui Moorfield and junior Virgynia Muma lead the offense with nine and eight points, respectively.
“They’re good players, and we’re aware of them, but our defensive structure is prepared to deal with them,” Bustin said.
In addition to recording a team-high point total, Moorfield is a leader on the defensive end, Boston College head coach Ainsle Lamb said.
“She does such a great job of providing great defensive structure, and her outletting skills are difficult to stop,” Lamb said.
The Blue Devils counter with an equally balanced attack. Five Duke players—including sophomore Jessica Buttinger, who represented Canada in the Junior Pan-American Games—have posted six or more points on the season. Junior Emmie Le Marchand leads the way with 15, followed by senior Mary Nielsen with 10.
“The difficulty with Duke is that its overall team strength is tremendous right now,” Lamb said. “They are absolutely a better team in this game on Friday than they have been in the past five games.”
Sunday, the Blue Devils will be back on the field to take on the Golden Flashes, a team that is known for its speed and high-energy play. One of Duke’s key focuses going into the matchup will be to curb Kent State’s momentum by putting the Golden Flashes on their heels.
With respective point totals of 17 and 13, sophomore Julia Hofmann and junior Rebecca Lee have carried Kent State this season.
“They play a big part in our corners, and we’ve been executing those well, so that’s been great,” Golden Flash head coach Kathleen Wiler said.
Wiler was quick to note, however, that the team’s strength extends beyond those two players.
“The neatest thing about our roster is that we have a couple student-athletes that are putting balls in the net, but a lot more people besides just Julia and Rebecca are contributing,” Wiler said.
One needs to look no further than the Duke-Michigan State game, in which the Blue Devils defeated the then-No. 15 Spartans down six players, to see that Duke boasts just as much depth. This weekend, Duke will find out how far its now-increased depth can take it against a conference foe and a non-conference opponent that should not be overlooked.