Duke looks to secure its first conference victory against a team it has not defeated since 2009.
After settling for a scoreless tie against No. 8 North Carolina last Friday, the Blue Devils will take on Virginia Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium.
Duke (4-4-3, 0-3-2 in the ACC) will be forced to contend with a Virginia (6-3-1, 2-2-1) offense has scored 24 goals this season to Duke’s 14. Freshman forward Brody Huitema leads the Blue Devils with five goals, all of which have come in the team's last six contests.
“We’ve got to just run at them and play really high tempo against Virginia,” Huitema said. “With the attacking we’re really just looking to get the ball and run, and if we can go forward, do that. If we get the ball, we’ve just got to turn and make space.”
The Blue Devils won't have an easier time on the offensive end when it takes on a Cavalier squad that has posted five shutouts in its 10 matches this season. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Jeff Gal leads the way for Virginia and has allowed just seven goals on the year.
The Cavaliers have been on a tear recently, posting wins in their last four matches. Virginia has not lost a game since Sept. 13 against Wake Forest.
To crack through the Cavalier defense, the Blue Devils will call on their experience against the Tar Heels, when Duke had a number of quality scoring chances despite posting just six shots in the match.
“Virginia is another ACC game we have go out and get a win from, since we haven’t won one yet,” senior defender Sebastien Ibeagha said. “It’s pretty similar to the North Carolina game because they’re similar in the way they play—how direct they play, how they switch the ball and hit the long diagonals. They’re quicker than North Carolina.”
The mid-week scheduling of the Virginia game is unusual, as it is the first conference game played during the week since Oct. 23, 2007 when the Blue Devils took on Virginia Tech.
“It’s different—we’ve never had a Tuesday conference game before,” Ibeagha said. “It’s weird knowing that, coming off the weekend playing [North Carolina], we only had one day to prepare before taking on another conference team. We don’t like to say that we have a different mentality, but obviously when you play an ACC team you have to be sharp. We have to be sharper and much quicker in the week than we would be usually.”
The Blue Devils have posted just one win in their last five games and are one of three ACC teams without a conference victory this season.
“We need to get our first win,” head coach John Kerr said. “We’ve played tough conference games away—Notre Dame, Maryland. We need to get on that scoreboard. We need to be on our toes, stick to the game plan and defend resolutely.”
In addition to contributing to their postseason chances, a win against the historically-strong Virginia program would be personally satisfying, Ibeagha said.
“I haven’t [beaten Virginia] in my four years, so hopefully this is my time,” he said. “This is something I want to do as a senior.”