As Duke looks to pull off an upset against Virginia for the second year in a row, the Cavaliers are searching for revenge after the Blue Devils knocked them out of last year's NCAA tournament.
Duke hosts No. 1 Virginia Thursday at 7 p.m. in Koskinen Stadium. The Blue Devils surrendered a two-goal lead their most recent game, a 2-2 draw against Syracuse. The Cavaliers are fresh off a 3-1 win at Pittsburgh.
“It’s one of our biggest rivals, Virginia is. We won last year in the NCAA tournament against them, and we always have really good games,” head coach Robbie Church said. “We probably won’t create as many shots as we have in the past, but when the opportunities are there, we have to be ready.”
Last November, the then-No. 15 Blue Devils eliminated the then-No. 2 Cavaliers from the NCAA tournament, winning 3-1 in Charlottesville, Va. Duke senior Laura Weinberg remembers the game well, and said Virginia remembers it too.
“We had the best game of the entire year. We just absolutely destroyed them.” Weinberg said. “We know that they’re kind of scared of us a little bit because that was the last time we played them, and we absolutely played them off the field. We’re hoping that’s still in their mind come [Thursday].”
The senior from Boca Raton, Fla., said that one step to repeating last year’s success will be getting this year’s freshmen to play with the same level of intensity as the 2012 Blue Devils when faced with a formidable opponent.
“We were so excited and so hyped up, and that translated perfectly onto the field.” Weinberg said. “We were trying to tell the freshmen about [last year’s game], and how we always match up really well against them historically. Every time we play them it’s just a really pretty soccer game.”
The Cavaliers (9-0, 3-0 in the ACC), led by junior midfielder Morgan Brian and sophomore forward Makenzy Doniak, will pose a challenge for the Duke (4-4-2, 1-2-1) defensive unit. Virginia enters Thursday's contest averaging a whopping 3.67 goals per game, ranking second in the nation.
“[Brian] is an unbelievable player, so I think shutting her down is going to be a key to our success.” Weinberg said. “That starts with us up top as forwards defending, our midfielders defending, our defense and our goalkeeper—all 11 of the people on the field have to defend.”
In addition to defending well, Church said his offense will need to turn scoring chances into goals. Duke struggled offensively in the early part of the season, but Weinberg said she had noticed improvement as the team entered ACC play.
“We usually score a lot of goals every year,” Weinberg said. “But I think we’ve been focusing a lot on shooting in practice and kind of combining and working together as a front line and as an offense, so we’re hoping to score a lot of goals, and that starts [Thursday] with Virginia.”
The Blue Devils will have the added advantage of playing in their home stadium, a contrast from last year’s matchup.
“They’re ranked No. 1 in the country, so we’re hoping to get a huge fan base out there, and that will definitely help us to win playing at home,” Weinberg said.
Although a boisterous home crowd could contribute to Duke's energy Thursday night, Church said it will be his team's execution that decides the outcome of the contest.
“It’s nice to be home, don’t get me wrong, but once the ball rolls over, we’re just on the field, two team’s playing.” Church said. “We have to go out there and just really play with a lot of passion and play relentlessly for the full 90 minutes.”