Coming fresh off of their first conference win, the Blue Devils have two weeks of regular season play left to keep their postseason dreams alive.
Duke will square off against No. 25 Elon Tuesday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. The Blue Devils have not lost to the Phoenix in school history, and they will look to continue this streak in their final nonconference game of the season.
“It’s a huge game because they’re doing so well this season,” head coach John Kerr said. “We’ll have our work cut out for us but it’s a great game to have in terms of nonconference because if you are able to win, it really helps you.”
Duke (5-4-5) is currently trying to edge its way up the ACC rankings to earn a spot in ACC and NCAA tournaments. A win against a ranked opponent could not only help Duke’s postseason chances, but also prepare the squad for its final three conference matchups, two of which are against ranked opponents.
Despite suffering a loss in its most recent match against Furman, Elon (10-3-1) has had an impressive season so far and has won eight of its 10 nonconference contests. Junior forward Jason Waterman leads the Phoenix in points, notching six goals and six assists on the season. Senior midfielder Matt Wescoe holds the team lead with seven assists and has added four tallies.
“They’ve got a really good midfield, they’re very tenacious, and they’re good in the tackle,” Kerr said. “[They] had a great year last year, so they’re gonna be hard to beat.”
The Elon midfield will square off with a Duke defense that has allowed just one goal in its last four games. Led by graduate student goalkeeper Alex Long, the Blue Devils have benefitted from their new defensive alignment since sophomore Zach Mathers has moved from the midfield to center back.
Despite offensive struggles all season, the Blue Devil offense managed its third first-half goal in the win Friday against Boston College. Scoring a goal in the 10th minute gave Duke the spark it needed to knock off the Eagles and secure its first ACC victory of the season.
“We scored a goal early in the game which was a good bonus for us—it gave us a lot of confidence, and from then on we really played with a lot of aggressiveness and control,” Kerr said. “That’s been missing from our offense the past couple of weeks, so I’m hoping we can continue that trend.”
To pick up an early lead, the Blue Devils will need to beat Elon goalkeeper Nathan Dean. The junior has recorded six shutouts on the season has posted a 0.68 goals against average, ranking 13th in the nation with a .848 save percentage.
In their last three meetings, Duke and Elon have fought to a draw, but this late in the season, what the Blue Devils need is a win to send them into their final three conference games—but the Phoenix will not make it easy.
Scoring more than twice as many goals as it has allowed all season, Elon will come to Durham Tuesday more than ready to claim its first win against Duke.
“[Elon] beat Wake forest, who is top in our league right now,” Kerr said. “They’re very capable, so we’re going to have to be on our toes, be sharp, and be ready for them.”