Two of the top teams in the nation will collide in College Park as No. 7 Duke will look to remain undefeated against an also undefeated No. 4 Maryland team Sunday at 1 p.m. at Maryland’s Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex.
The Blue Devils (4-0, 1-0 in the ACC) have been led by senior attacker Makenzie Hommel this season. Hommel has been Duke’s main offensive force, leading the Blue Devils in goals for three of their first four games. She has already scored 13 goals, more than half of what she totaled last season.
“It’s never a mindset. It’s just kind of the way the game unfolds and how we’re working together on any given day,” Hommel said. “Every game, we’ve had multiple scorers, and every one of those scorers have scored multiple goals.”
It has not been all offense, though. The Blue Devil defense has kept opponents at bay, most notably notching a shutout against Presbyterian in their second game of the season. This suffocating defense has led to Duke forcing 53 turnovers, which has kept their opponents to attempting a mere 12.8 shots per game, opposed to the Blue Devils’ 38.5.
“Most of the game is mental,” Hommel said. “You just need to stay focused.”
Duke’s first four games have been blowout victories, outscoring their opponents 73-27. This trend will not be likely to continue, as the Terrapins are a much higher quality team than those the Blue Devils have faced thus far.
Duke has already beaten Virginia Tech in the ACC this year, but this will be the team’s first road game.
“It’s a new time for our freshman to be on the road for the first time and get acclimated for themselves,” Hommel said. “It’s just a learning experience, just as everything else is.”
Conversely, Maryland (2-0) will have its first home game of the season and will do so on a hot streak after its two impressive victories. Last Sunday, senior midfielder Katie Schwarzmann led the Terrapins to a dominant 19-11 victory against No. 2 Syracuse. Schwarzmann scored a career-high seven goals in the contest, with five of them coming in the decisive second half against the Orange. Duke, by contrast, has yet to play a top foe. So far this season, the Blue Devils’ first four opponents have a combined record of 2-11.
Although Maryland has only played two games, the contest against Syracuse helped to prove early on that they have not fallen off since last season when they reached the NCAA semifinals.
“Our coach always tells us to go in—nameless, faceless opponent. I know it sounds cliche but you just need to do that. You don’t need to worry about the name on someone’s jersey,” Hommel said. “You just have to go in there and know what you’re capable of doing and what your teammates are capable of doing.”
Sunday’s matchup will be one of the early premier matchups of conference play—the only other ACC team in the top 10 is North Carolina at No. 5.
But the success of the two schools will no longer make for intriguing regular season matchups after next season, with Maryland leaving the ACC for the Big Ten.
The players are aware that this could be one of the team’s final trips to College Park.
“I think it’s just always exciting to play an ACC team, in-conference game. Especially now because [Maryland is leaving the ACC],” Hommel said. “It’s just exciting to be able to play them and play such great competition.”