No. 1 UNC awaits Blue Devils

The women's soccer team will try to do something Sunday they have not done in over a decade and no team has accomplished this year-beat the University of North Carolina.

"Our team really enjoys playing North Carolina," head coach Robbie Church said. "Our goal is to be one of the top programs in the country, and North Carolina is the top program. To get there you've got to play the best."

In 26 years the Tar Heels have won 18 national championships, reached 23 final fours and won 16 ACC championships.

No. 1 UNC (13-0, 5-0 in the ACC) has beaten No. 11 Duke (8-2-1, 2-2) in four consecutive contests, including a 4-2 heartbreaker in the 2004 ACC semifinal when the Blue Devils lost a 2-1 halftime lead. Duke fought its way to a scoreless tie in Chapel Hill in 2002.

This season has been business as usual for the Tar Heels, outscoring opponents 53-5 and posting victories over top-20 teams Florida State, Yale, Stanford and Virginia.

Duke has hit a rocky stretch lately, dropping back-to-back 1-0 matches against ACC foes No. 5 Virginia and No. 10 Boston College, Sept. 25 and Sept. 30, respectively. The team bounced back Sunday to squeak out a 1-0 victory over unranked N.C. State.

"Obviously we would like to score a few more goals," Church said. "We're creating a lot of opportunities and we want to fine-tune our work in the final [offensive] third."

Despite their recent struggles and a formidable opponent, players and coaches remain optimistic about Sunday's match. The Blue Devils will have the advantage of a full week to prepare while the Tar Heels will be coming off a Thursday night battle with No. 5 Virginia-a game that the Tar Heels won 2-1 in double overtime. Church gave the team Monday and Tuesday off to focus on midterms and get some much-needed rest.

"We prepare for UNC differently anyways because they are such a rival," midfielder Darby Kroyer said. "Having this week off, we have had a lot of time to prepare and focus on their players and how they play. It's a mental thing."

Freshman Christie McDonald, who co-leads the team in scoring, is one of the few on a veteran Blue Devil squad who will be experiencing the UNC-Duke rivalry for the first time Sunday.

"I'm really excited for it," she said. "UNC-Duke is always a big rivalry, and UNC has such a prestigious girls' soccer program. I'm really excited.


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