Laura Weinberg has always had a knack for finding the back of the net.
And this year, despite playing on a front line that’s been missing players due to national team commitments and injuries throughout the season, the junior has been scoring at an even quicker pace—just under a goal a game.
“Her attacking mentality has been outstanding,” head coach Robbie Church said. “She’s been a lot more consistent this year running at players, staying wide, being able to take players on… and getting serves in. So, as a coach, you really appreciate the growth in her, and that comes from hard work.”
Weinberg, who is tied for ninth in the NCAA in goals per game this year, already had a taste of national recognition for her offensive talent before even arriving at Duke.
As a high school freshman, the Boca Raton, Fla. native scored 24 goals to lead St. Andrew’s School to its first state championship. Her continued success as a sophomore for the Scots earned her a feature in the Feb. 18, 2008 issue of Sports Illustrated’s “Faces in the Crowd” section.
“Her attacking mentality was something we saw as a youth player,” Church said. “Her teams were not really great teams that she played on… but she just stood out…. Our program at that time was kind of wrapped up at sixth, seventh, eighth in the ACC. To get to the upper echelon, we had to be more athletic, so she provided us with that. And she provided an attacking mentality for us.”
Weinberg’s transition to the ACC did not slow down her offensive output. As a freshman, she led the Blue Devils with 10 goals, including two game-winners. And last season, Weinberg—sharing the load with double-digit goal scorers junior Mollie Pathman and sophomore Kelly Cobb—registered another eight goals.
This year, the forward has taken her consistent offensive output to an even higher level, scoring 11 goals in Duke’s 12 games.
Referred to as “a sniper in front of the goal” by Church, Weinberg has also greatly improved her accuracy, shooting a .216 percentage in comparison to her career average of .134.
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t know what I was getting myself into,” Weinberg said. “I didn’t really know the level of competition, but now, I’m a lot more familiar with the teams that we’re playing in our conference. You realize after playing in the ACC for two years just how good the competition is, so I think just becoming familiar with that has really helped my game a lot.”
Church credits much of Weinberg’s success this year not only to her veteran experience but also to her training regimen over the summer. While in New York for a marketing internship with Meredith Corporation, she trained with Blue Devil teammates redshirt junior Kim DeCesare, senior Libby Jandl and redshirt junior Callie Simpkins. The four played for N.Y. Athletic Club and also worked two to three times a week with a trainer.
In addition to training with her teammates, the junior also sought to expand her game in the offseason to include other responsibilities on the field.
“I took the corners for my summer team,” Weinberg said. “That’s something I wanted to work on, just add that element, bring it to Duke. I’ve been working a lot on free kicks also.”
The Blue Devils benefited greatly from Weinberg’s improved performance, having played their first seven games without Pathman and Cobb as the duo participated in the U-20 FIFA World Cup. And since the duo’s return, Cobb and DeCesare have suffered injuries, leaving Weinberg and freshman Cassie Pecht with the majority of responsibility for the offensive third of the field.
“She needs to be that player that is going to produce every night,” Church said. “She enjoys that role, and I think she’s done a great job in that role this year.”
Beyond contributing her own scoring, Weinberg has also faced the task of a becoming a mentor to her younger teammates. Weinberg—who personally trains a 12-year-old girl during her time at home—commented that she has taken on the responsibility of a larger leadership role. Recruited to bring Duke to the top of the ACC, Weinberg helped take her team to last year’s NCAA title game. As the team’s leading scorer, she’s now in a position to help bring the Blue Devils back.
“I definitely feel the pressure, but I would say it’s a good kind of pressure,” Weinberg said. “I like when the stakes are high.”