Duke will have to contend with Syracuse's aggressive zone defense in the first meeting between the Blue Devils and the Orange in program history.
Xirui Liu / Chronicle File Photo
Duke will have to contend with Syracuse's aggressive zone defense in the first meeting between the Blue Devils and the Orange in program history.

As temperatures have heated up, so has No. 8 Duke—the Blue Devils rebounded from their three-game losing steak with four victories in a row.

Duke, however, will face No. 3 Syracuse Saturday not in 75-degree Durham, but in Syracuse, N.Y. where temperatures are not expected to exceed 45 degrees. But despite the cold weather, the Blue Devils hope to keep their hot streak alive in what will be one of their toughest contests of the season.

“Our goal was to get back on track after we lost a few games, and we did that successfully,” Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “We feel really good about how we’ve been playing… and feel really good going into this game.”

The Orange have only lost one game so far this season, a 12-10 loss to undefeated Maryland. Syracuse has scored in double-digits in every game, allowing its opponents to do so just three times.

Powering the Orange’s offense is sophomore Kayla Treanor, who leads Syracuse in goals and assists with 32 and 21, respectively. Treanor is first in the ACC in points per game, tallying an average of 5.30 each contest. The attack, who also plays some midfield, is joined up front by senior Alyssa Murray, who is second on the team in both goals and attacks.

“Syracuse plays a different kind of style than we’re used to, and they’re very prolific offensively,” Kimel said. “They have a different looking stickwork… and a veteran offense, [which] is very powerful in terms of scoring potential.”

Senior Taylor Virden, who was recently named to Inside Lacrosse’s Midseason All-America list as a member of the first team, will head the Blue Devils’ defensive unit against Syracuse. Virden leads Duke with 14 caused turnovers and 38 draw controls.

“Our defense has played well, and I think we match up really well against them,” Kimel said. “It’s more about learning their system and learning Syracuse’s offense in particular.”

Unlike the Blue Devils, and similar to its men’s basketball team, the Orange rely on a zone defense. Syracuse is one of the only teams in Division I women’s lacrosse to nearly exclusively employ a zone defense, and, as a result, are second in the ACC with a 7.80 goals-against average.

“They play an aggressive zone,” Kimel said. “They cover a lot of space, so our ball movement on the perimeter needs to be exceptional. We need to find good openings and make the most of our possessions.”

Kerrin Maurer will be the key to penetrating the Orange’s zone. The junior, who was named to the Tewaaraton Award women’s watch list, leads the Blue Devils in scoring, with 31 goals and 19 assists. Maurer has notched a hat trick in three of her last four games, all four of which resulted in Duke victories.

This is the first time in program history the Blue Devils and the Orange will face off on the field. Although adapting to Syracuse’s unique style will be challenging for Duke, it is necessary since the two teams will now meet at least once a season as members of the ACC.

“When we play our regular opponents, we have a handle on what this team likes to do, so it’s going to be about learning what their tendencies are,” Kimel said. “It’s a challenge to prepare for them, since Syracuse plays a different kind of style than we’re used to, but we’re looking at it like a new adventure.”