After Senior Day recognition at Koskinen Stadium, Duke will quickly shift its focus to a matchup that has major postseason implications.
The No. 9 Blue Devils will face off against fourth-ranked Boston College Saturday at noon. Duke will honor its eight seniors just before the opening faceoff of a game that will be crucial in determining both teams' seeding in the upcoming ACC tournament.
“This game is huge,” head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “I think the two of us are in a very similar situation. We both feel like it’s a must-win for the tournament and you’re going to have two teams that are going to be really gutting out a win this weekend.”
Entering the game sitting in fourth place in the ACC standings, the Blue Devils (8-4, 2-2 in the ACC) can push into a tie for third with a victory against the Eagles (9-3, 1-3). A loss could drop Duke as low as sixth with the conference tournament just three weeks away.
Coming off a 10-9 victory against nonconference opponent High Point Wednesday, the Blue Devils enter their final regular-season home game looking for their sixth win in the past seven contests. Although an upset-minded Panther squad pushed Duke to the brink Wednesday, Kimel said she believes the game presented an ideal opportunity for the Blue Devils to practice against a strong possession team.
“We played a team that really possessed the ball, had really long possessions, wasn’t even going to goal at times, which forced us to play a lot of defense,” Kimel said. “Boston College plays a very patient style, possession game as well. And what better way to prepare for BC than to have to play against that on Wednesday?”
The defensive end has been the focus for Duke in practice this week. The last time the Blue Devils faced a top-10 opponent, they allowed a season-high 19 goals to Syracuse in a road loss.
“For our defense, we felt like we did not have a really solid, fundamental game against Syracuse, so we’ve just been working on basic stuff, and we’ve made good strides this week,” Kimel said.
Kerrin Maurer will lead the Duke attack into Saturday's game. The junior tallied five points on two goals and three assists against High Point and recorded seven draw controls. Maurer, along with sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea and senior defender Taylor Virden, were named to Inside Lacrosse’s Midseason All-America list last week. Virden plays a crucial role in the team’s defense, leading the Blue Devils in draw controls with 45 on the season, and Duryea ranks second in the ACC in saves per game with 8.18.
Duryea, Virden and the rest of the Blue Devil defense will likely have its hands full with a powerful Boston College attack. The Eagles are led by junior Mikaela Rix, who boasts a team-high 33 goals on the season. Junior Covie Stanwick is the team's primary distributor with 21 assists.
Kimel identified the ground ball battle as one of the keys to Saturday's contest, as possession and tempo could play key roles in a game between two teams fighting for playoff position.