Duke will travel to Pittsburgh Saturday Saturday to face the Panthers at Ambrose Urbanic Stadium. It will be the Blue Devils first game back after a weeklong break from action.
The Blue Devils have used the time off to focus on the essentials and rest up for the final leg of their regular-season schedule.
“It’s nice that we have had a full week off because we don’t have a mid-week game. It allows us to get ourselves organized,” head coach John Kerr said. “We’ve been going a hundred miles an hour for most of the season with three games a week so it’s a nice when we can prepare properly and even give the boys a day off to rest their legs and get some homework done. It’s always appreciated this time of year.”
Duke will aim to build on their momentum from their last game Friday when Luis Rendon and Will Donovan netted two goals 44 seconds apart in the final minutes to force a 2-2 tie against then-No. 14 Wake Forest. After some offensive shortcomings late in the season, Duke seems to have found its stride at a crucial time and is looking to boost their resume further with a win against the Panthers.
“We understand the ramifications of getting three points,” Kerr said. “It will give us a good chance of getting into the ACC tournament. We’ve let off a few teams this year in terms of getting ties and we need to get some more W’s.”
Saturday night’s contest will be the first time the Panthers and Blue Devils (6-4-6, 1-3-5 in the ACC) will meet on the field since 1955. A recent addition to the ACC, the Panthers have struggled this season. Pittsburgh (0-9-4, 0-7-2) is ranked last in the conference and has registered only one goal against conference opponents. The team has failed to score in their past six matches.
Despite their offensive shortcomings, Kerr refuses to chalk up the game to an easy win.
“Pitt doesn’t have such a great record, they haven’t scored a lot of goals, but as we’ve been doing some video analysis of them you would never think they are as bad as their records show,” Kerr said. “They are a pretty good team, and they don’t give up. It won’t be an easy game.”
To secure a win against the Panthers, Duke will need to attack a formidable defense led by sophomore goalkeeper Dan Lynd. Pittsburgh currently leads the ACC with 75 saves on the season fronted by Lynd, who tops the conference with a 5.75 saves per game mark. The Panthers’ fledgling offense is led by sophomore Ryan Myers, who paces the team with only three points. The team has just four goals all season, two of which came in ACC play. The Panthers have tied in five of their matches at home but have yet to come away with a victory.
Ambrose Urbanic Stadium is a turf field, which will quicken the pace of the contest and differ from the grass field the Blue Devils play on in their home games at Koskinen Stadium.
“We just [played on turf] when we went to Boston College and this time we are spending three days before the game practicing on turf, and then we will go to Pittsburgh and train on their turf. We’re used to it,” Kerr said. “It’s not our favorite surface in the world.”
A victory against Pittsburgh would add to the Blue Devils’ impressive offensive turnaround and help advance the team to ACC tournament play. Duke enters the contest sitting in the ninth spot, just short of their postseason aspirations.
“Its huge game. It’s a must win,” Kerr said.