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Duke to clean up offense

With expectations abounding, the field hockey team admits it is feeling the pressure.

After scoring only three goals in two games during its opening weekend, the team returns home and hopes to regain its Final Four form of a year ago. The Blue Devils (1-1) take on New Hampshire at 1 p.m. Saturday and Towson at 1 p.m. Sunday.

“Everyone knows we have a lot of pressure on us this season, so when we’re on the field we think about it too much,” junior Katie Grant said. “Everything’s there, it’s just a matter of relaxing and doing what we need to do.”

Head coach Beth Bozman said the players’ psychological state has shown itself in their overzealous offensive play, and their eagerness to make things happen has led to poor spacing.

Seeing similar mistakes at Wed-nesday’s practice, Bozman blew her whistle and stopped the intra-squad scrimmage. She walked toward the center of the field and said, “Okay guys, here’s what the problem with our attack is.”

“I think we were overloading where the ball was instead of spreading out and stretching their defense,” Bozman said, summarizing her explanation during practice. “We were just kind of motionless in the circle, and we’ve really been working on our circle movement.”

Last weekend in the Champions’ Challenge, Duke narrowly held off Louisville 2-1 and then lost to Michigan State 4-1. This weekend the competition will not be as tough, giving the Blue Devils a chance to regain confidence and mend their offensive woes.

Of the two games this weekend, New Hampshire (0-1) figures to be the more formidable opponent. The Wildcats, picked by the America East Coaches’ Poll to finish second in their conference, opened their season yesterday with a loss to Michigan. They are led by forward Katie White, whose averaged a goal per game last season, good for eighth-best in the nation, and goalkeeper Christine Buckley, a four-year starter. Duke beat New Hampshire 4-2 in 2003.

“They were a challenge for us last year,” Bozman said. “If you watch the game you’d have thought it would have been closer than it was by the score, so I expect a lot out of them.... Their coaches are good, they’re going to be pretty fundamentally sound, just a solid team that you need to take care of your game with.”

Towson (0-2), picked to finish seventh of eight teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, has lost 10 of its last 11 games dating back to last season.

Still, after playing listlessly at times during its first two games, Duke has vowed to compete with renewed intensity for the rest of the season.

“We learned that we have to work hard and take care of the details in the field,” senior defender Gracie Sorbello said.

The Blue Devils hope that by controlling the details they might also be able to get some of the bounces to go their way.

“It was not going in for us, and everything our opponents hit did go in; it was just one of those games for us,” Bozman said. “[But] obviously when you take 17 shots and you’re not getting the balls in the cage you’ve got to fix something. We’re not going to wait for it to fix itself.”

Already it appears that one thing has gone Duke’s way for the weekend. Goalkeeper Christy Morgan, who missed the Michigan State game with a concussion suffered during the game against Louisville, practiced this week and will play this weekend.

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