In order to repeat last year’s run to the Final Four, seventh-seeded Duke will need to avenge a regular-season ACC loss first.
The Blue Devils gave up a three-goal halftime lead to lose 14-12 to then-No. 12 Virginia March 24 at home, but Duke (11-6) will get a second shot at the Cavaliers (11-7) in the first round of the NCAA tournament Sunday 2 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium.
In the regular season, an uncharacteristically poor performance at the draw during the second half stymied Duke.
Nevertheless, the Blue Devils are coming off their most complete second-period performance of the season in which they outscored then-No. 10 Penn 5-0 on their way to locking up a 12-5 victory April 28.
And with three seniors who have accumulated 100-plus career draw controls along with 100-plus goals—a feat only four previous Blue Devils had accomplished—the draw should be a strength for Duke. If the Blue Devils don’t take advantage of it, they will face an uphill struggle for possession.
Furthermore, Duke’s performance in its season finale against Penn showed off its scoring depth. Although not a single Blue Devil ranks in the top 18 in the ACC in goals scored, seven have notched season point totals of 25 or greater and in the Penn game, nine different Duke players recorded a point.
On the other hand, Virginia enters the postseason on a two-game losing streak, having fallen to ACC regular season champion North Carolina in the conference tournament and to then-No. 1 Northwestern.
Still, the Cavaliers hold the advantage in experience. Although the Blue Devils have made 15 straight NCAA tournaments, Virginia is making its 17th straight appearance and owns three national titles to Duke’s zero. Additionally, the Cavaliers own a 3-1 series advantage when meeting in the tournament.
Key to slowing down Virginia will be containing senior Josie Owen who has 76 points on 41 goals and 35 assists and freshman Sloane Warren who is second on the team with 26 goals.
Following her five consecutive starts at defense to finish the season, Blue Devil freshman Gabby Moise will likely be assigned to Owen, who scored 2 goals on 2 shots and added three assists in the regular season game at Duke.
Moise, however, did not make her first start until the following game against North Carolina when she held then-national leading scorer Abbey Friend to just an assist. The addition of Moise to the mix could give Duke just what it needs to find the upper hand against Virginia.