To avoid its first loss in nonconference play, Duke will have to draw upon the lessons it learned in not one, but two difficult losses.
The Blue Devils, who have tallied three of their four wins at home, will host UNC-Wilmington in a 7 p.m. game Tuesday at Koskinen Stadium.
Fresh off a late-game defeat against No. 2 Notre Dame Friday, Duke (4-3-2) remains winless in ACC play. The Fighting Irish scored a pair of goals in the final two minutes of the contest to top the Blue Devils in South Bend, Ind.
“It was a tough loss for us, especially because we fought so hard throughout the game, and to get two goals scored on us in the last two minutes is deflating,” head coach John Kerr said. “But I must say we had a really good training session here [Monday] morning, and we’re going to bounce back Tuesday night against Wilmington.”
Senior defender Sebastien Ibeagha said that despite allowing two late goals in the loss, the Blue Devils took away a number of positives from their contest against Notre Dame, most of which came on the defensive end.
The Fighting Irish peppered the Duke goal with 17 shots throughout the game and took four corner kicks in the second half, but were able to come away with just one score in the first 87 minutes. Alex Long stood tall between the pipes for the Blue Devils, making three saves in the contest.
“Although the Notre Dame game we did lose, a lot of good things came out of it,” Ibeagha said. “Defensively we played very well. We’ve had a problem the whole year defensively, but we kept them out until two minutes left… we made them struggle to get what they wanted.”
Duke will take on a UNC-Wilmington (4-3-1) team that has struggled in the attacking third this season, registering just 10 goals in its first eight contests. The team lacks a dominant offensive threat, with no player on the team having more than two goals to their name thus far.
The Seahawks defeated Colonial Athletic Association newcomer College of Charleston 1-0 in their last match. Forward Jack Ward notched his first goal of the season for UNC-Wilmington's lone tally.
“They have a solid team. They had a great win against Charleston Saturday night and they beat us last year in a tight game,” Kerr said. “We have a point to prove tomorrow night that we have to bounce back from that result last year.”
When the Blue Devils take the field against the Seahawks Tuesday night, the team will have the memory of a 2-1 defeat to UNC-Wilmington last season resting in the back of its mind.
Like Friday's loss to Notre Dame, it was two late goals that took a potential victory away from Duke last year at UNCW Soccer Stadium. The Blue Devils surrendered both scores in the last 10 minutes of the contest to come away with a bitter defeat.
With a similar loss still stinging, Duke will have to convert more offensive chances should it hope to keep its undefeated nonconference record intact. Ibeagha said that the lessons his team learned in South Bend could be what makes the difference as his team seeks retribution against an in-state foe.
“They beat us last year so we have to go back out there and get this win,” Ibeagha said. “If we play like we played against Notre Dame, I think we’ll be fine going forward.”