When No. 2 Duke took the field for its home opener against Elon tonight, an 8-0 victory, two notable Blue Devils were missing from the lineup.
Over 7,000 miles away, junior Mollie Pathman and sophomore Kelly Cobb have been preparing for their opening round matchup against Ghana in the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup in Hiroshima, Japan. The game will be aired on ESPNU and ESPN3 at 3:00 AM EST.
The two Duke stars earned selections to the 21-player U.S. national team roster Aug. 2 and traveled to Japan on Aug. 10 to prepare for the tournament.
For Pathman, it will be a second chance at gold in the world’s premiere youth tournament. At the last tournament—held in Berlin in 2010—she came off the bench for two games. The U.S. however bowed out in its first match of the knockout round, losing in a penalty shootout to Nigeria.
Over the past year, Pathman—the third-leading scorer for the Blue Devils last season—has solidified her role as the starting left back for the national team. Moreover, Pathman served as team captain in the women’s U-20 CONCACAF tournament this March, leading them to win the tournament and earn a World Cup bid.
“We’ve put in a lot of work over the past few years, and we’re really confident in how we’re looking now,” Pathman said.
Cobb—who set Duke’s freshman record with 11 goals last season—made the roster after recovering from surgery to her left ankle in January. The 19-year old trained with the U-20 national team in 2011 and received an invitation to train with the team earlier in 2012 but could not participate due to her injury.
She returned to U-20 training for the team’s final event before World Cup roster selection—a two-week camp in Bradenton, Florida during July.
“I hadn’t been in for a while because of my ankle surgery in January, so I was a little bit nervous going in,” Cobb said. “I think when you go to camps like that, all you can do is give it your best and learn from the coaches and players there.”
Cobb distinguished herself enough from the 80-player pool to earn a spot on the roster at her natural forward position and join her teammate.
“It’s really nice,” Pathman said. “Kelly and I have known each other for a long time now, and…she’s one of my best friends, so it’s great to have her along side me.”
The tournament will last until Sep. 8, so the two Blue Devils will likely miss seven regular season matches and return in time for the start of ACC play when Duke heads to Florida State Sep. 13.
In order to advance to the quarterfinals matches on Aug. 30 or 31, the U.S. will need to finish in the top two of Group D. After playing Ghana Monday, the U.S. will continue pool play with a match against China Aug. 23 at 6:00 AM EST. Then in a battle of two-time tournament winners, the U.S. will take on reigning champion Germany Aug. 27 at 3:00 AM EST. Both matches will also be shown on ESPNU and ESPN3.
“It’s such an honor every time I get to put on the U.S.A. jersey and get to compete for a chance to be the best in the world,” Pathman said. “It’s really a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”