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Duke faces pair of weaker teams

The women’s soccer team enters the Nike Carolina Classic this weekend with the deserved confidence of a team that returns nine of 11 starters from one of the best seasons in program history. At the same time, the No. 12 Blue Devils understand that it may take time for their on-field play to catch up with their high expectations.

Duke will be able to gain some much needed experience as the heavy favorite with games against unranked Yale and Davidson this weekend in Chapel Hill.

The Blue Devils continue to grapple with their newly implemented 4-3-3 formation. The team has worked all week in practice on ball movement and creating options, head coach Robbie Church said.

“It’s inconsistent, a little bit like our overall play right now,” Church said. “At times you see it and it looks brilliant and at times it breaks down. And it can do all of that in a small course.”

The Blue Devils have shown promise in the early stages of the 2005 campaign. In the two games, Duke holds a 35-13 shot and 20-6 corner kick advantage over the opposition. From these opportunities, however, Duke has managed only two goals, the lowest goal output of its opening two matches since 1996.

Although learning new assignments has presented a challenge for the team, players and coaches remain optimistic about the potential for the new season.

“We don’t have that one target person that our offense goes through. We have a lot more options and a lot more versatility,” McCabe said. “We’re excited because we know when it does click, we’re going to be unstoppable.”

The defense has also made adjustments for the new formation. With the elimination of outside midfielders, the responsibility now falls to the outside backs to defend the sidelines.

“We’re still trying to figure out how to keep good shape when we’re attacking out of the defense and there are a lot of transitions we have to deal with,” tri-captain Carolyn Ford said.

For a team normally accustomed to being the underdog, the Blue Devils have talked a lot about how they can stay on top despite the target on their backs.

“We have to go into every game knowing they are going to work ten times harder than against another team,” junior Sarah McCabe said.

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