The Blue Devils are hoping to carry the momentum from Sunday’s shutout win against Stanford into this weekend, as they travel north to Boston for a pair of matches against top programs.
No. 8 Duke has the chance to improve to 3-2 in the ACC for the first time since 2006 with a win against No. 7 Boston College Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Newton Campus Field Hockey Complex. The team will then travel just four miles east to Boston University and will play the Terriers Sunday at 1:30 p.m. at New Balance Field in the Blue Devil’s final non-conference game of the year.
Duke only has three matches left before it enters postseason play.
“[All of the remaining games] are all crucial,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “ACC games definitely [are] because as we wind down and the seedings start clearing up, we want to hopefully be seeded in the top three, if possible. They are all hard [matches], but they are all fun. We have our work cut out for us, but also it is really exciting.”
The Blue Devils hope to snap a two-game conference losing streak against the Eagles (11-4, 1-3 in the ACC) who enter game licking their wounds after a 5-2 loss to North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
Duke (11-4. 2-2) has focused on overcoming a series of slow starts, which have affected the Blue Devils' numbers in the win column. In its last five games, the offense has only scored two first-half goals. Last weekend, Duke gave up three first-half goals to Virginia.
“We have talked a lot about how to get that game mentality in the early minutes of the game,” redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing said. “It is all going to come down to having the intensity the moment that we step onto the field.”
Blazing and the defense will look to contain Boston College junior midfielder Emma Pasteras, who is tied for third in the ACC with 11 goals, adding 11 assists on the year. Blazing, who has a career-high 90 saves this season, is only giving up 1.24 goals per game this season.
Taking on a potent Eagle attack, Bustin's Blue Devils will hope to rely on its own offensive firepower to combat Boston College's scoring threats.
“In the games that we have played, the more consistent the attacking pressure is, the better our defense plays,” Bustin said.
Duke's offense, which has scored five goals in its past two games, will have its hands full trying to score against Boston College sophomore goalkeeper Leah Settipane, who leads the ACC with 6.13 saves per game and has stopped 77 percent of the shots she has faced.
“Our offense] has been working together,” Bustin said. “Every game we learn something else and apply it to the next weeks of practice. Watching ourselves on video, making adjustments and communicating as a unit is something the team has really focused on the last few weeks.”
Less than 24 hours after finishing up with the Eagles, the Blue Devils will look to win their ninth straight match against Boston University (10-5). The Terriers will be looking to pull off the upset, as they have not beaten a ranked opponent this season.
A win against Boston University would put the Blue Devils in better position for an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament, should Duke not win the ACC tournament.
“They are looking at teams to fill the brackets and we want to put ourselves in the best position,” Bustin said.
Terrier forward Amanda Cassera comes into the match with eight goals on the season, while the Blue Devils will face another battle getting the ball in the cage, as goalkeeper Valentina Cerda ranks in the top 10 nationally in save percentage.
The two tough road matches this weekend will be a test for Duke, but with the end of the season near, the team knows how crucial it is to end the weekend with two victories in Boston.
“Being 2-2 in the ACC, this will be an important game,” junior forward Abby Beltrani said. “It will be a really good matchup. If we can get [the win] it will be really solid for us.”