Duke has its first ACC Conference title in its sight and is ready for postseason play. This veteran team, which lost in the ACC Tournament semifinals to Wake Forest last year 2-1, is ready to make a run again—starting with a chance for revenge against the Demon Deacons.
Less than two weeks ago, Duke (12-4-2, 5-3-2 in the ACC) battled back in a double overtime thriller at home to capture a draw with then-No. 12 Wake Forest (12-4-3, 6-3-1). The No. 6 seeded Blue Devils will now have a chance to earn a win at No. 3 seeded Wake Forest Sunday at 1 p.m. As the lower seed, Duke must travel to Winson-Salem, N.C. to play the Demon Deacons at Spry Stadium.
“We know Wake Forest well, we’ve played Wake Forest over the years in big games, and besides the Carolina game, definitely our biggest rival is Wake Forest,” head coach Robbie Church said.
Wake Forest closed the regular season with a 3-0 loss to Virginia Tech Wednesday, while Duke dismantled Francis Marion 4-0 in its season finale. Regardless, the Demon Deacons come armed with their tight defense that has only conceded 15 goals this season.
The key to overcoming this hurdle is to attack quickly before they can set up, Church said. He pointed out the importance in serving the ball from outside the box and maintaining movement inside the box against one of the top goalkeepers in the conference.
“We are really prepared for this game,” Church said. “I know we’re looking forward to the tournament, and I feel really good where we stand in the tournament. And there is no question that we can win the tournament, and I expect us to do that."
Having played the Demon Deacons three times in the 2011 season, and only 12 days ago, the Blue Devils are not facing anything they have not seen before.
“We have played them so many times, we know each other very well, that at this point the scouting report doesn’t even help anymore,” senior goalkeeper Tara Campbell said. “We have this rivalry with them, and there is just a pride that goes along with winning against them because we play them so often.”
This year’s tournament boasts a field where seven of the top eight teams are ranked in the top 25 in the country, and five that are ranked in the top 10. The field is led by Florida State, which defeated Duke 1-0 in September.
“The ACC tournament is important for us right now because we did finish sixth in the ACC regular season,” Campbell said. “So if we want to get the best seed we can get in the NCAA Tournament, we need to go as far as we can, and maybe pull out a No. 1 seed.”