They rose, they fell and they have begun to rise again.
The Blue Devils got off to a hot 7-1 start in non-conference play, entering their ACC schedule as the No. 2 team in the country. After falling to No. 1 Florida State and No. 6 Virginia and tying No. 9 Maryland, No. 7 Duke defeated No. 18 Virginia Tech Thursday night. The Blue Devils hope to continue their climb back to the top with a win over No. 23 Boston College Sunday at Koskinen Stadium.
“[The ACC] is an unbelievable conference to play in,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “There are eight ACC teams in the Top 25, which is an unbelievable number.... You learn from the games in the ACC, and once you survive the ACC and get to the NCAA tournament, then you’re a better team for playing the last seven weeks in the ACC season.”
Church was quick to praise the Eagles (8-3-2, 2-2-0 in the ACC), Duke’s (9-3-1, 3-2-1) next opponent, on both ends of the field.
“They’ve got a transfer goalkeeper from the University of Texas who’s very good in the goal,” he said. “Their back four is really a quality back four. Their midfielders are very strong. They’re good at passing and combination play. Their attack is as good as anybody in the country.”
Boston College boasts the 12th highest-scoring offense in the country with 2.75 goals per game. Senior Kristen Mewis leads the attack with nine goals and six assists on the season. Mewis was named to the Preseason Hermann Trophy Watch List and the Soccer America Preseason All-America list after earning first-team All-ACC and third-team All-America honors in 2011.
“Kristen Mewis is an unbelievable player, one of the top players in our conference,” Church said. “From a defensive standpoint we’ve really got to limit her shots on goal.”
Freshman McKenzie Meehan and sophomore Stephanie McCaffrey, who have notched seven and six goals, respectively, round out the Eagles’ offense.
Scoring at a clip of 3.08 goals per game—good for sixth in the nation—the Blue Devils pose an even greater challenge to Boston College’s defense. The ninth-leading scorer in the country, junior Laura Weinberg, scores at a rate of just under one goal per game.
“Laura Weinberg’s always done a great job against us,” Eagle head coach Alison Foley said. “She has great speed, she’s tenacious, and she’s really good one-vs.-one. Limiting the outlet ball at the midfield will be the key to slowing her down.”
Aside from containing Boston College’s high-powered attack, Duke’s key focus in Sunday’s game will be finishing on the offensive end, a task that the Blue Devils have struggled with in their games against Florida State, Virginia and Maryland. The Seminoles and Cavaliers shut out Duke, which could not convert on its offensive opportunities in overtime against the Terrapins.
“At Virginia, we had a segment of 20-25 minutes in the beginning of the second half that we were all over them, but we didn’t get anything out of it,” Church said. “So when we control play, we’ve got to be able to score goals. It’s going to be important that when we’re doing really good things offensively that we’re finishing that up with goals.”
The ability to finish against the Eagles’ sturdy defensive unit will be the difference-maker in Sunday’s game.