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Pair of road games opens team's season

They're preseason No.1. They're trying to overcome some injuries. Everyone's watching to see if they live up to the hype. And if that's not enough, they're traveling into enemy territory for their first game.

And this isn't just any other away game for the Duke women's basketball team. Penn State, which the team tips off against tonight at 8 p.m., currently boasts a 20-game home winning streak. It would be a daunting task for most, but the Blue Devils have been there before.

Forward Mistie Williams noted Duke's victory over UConn Jan. 3, 2004, which snapped the then-No. 1 Huskies 70-game home winning streak.

"I think this team definitely has experience with that type of thing," Williams said. "Programs like that with tradition as strong as they do, it's definitely going to be hard to walk into their stadium. And definitely we're going to have to work for it. It's not going to be easy."

With an average margin of victory of 66 points in their two preseason games, the Blue Devils must gear up for a much better opponent. Though Penn State returns only one starter from last year's squad, No. 1 Duke expects every team to take its best shot against the nation's top team. But head coach Gail Goestenkors and her team are not just approaching this game with the intent to win.

"It's so early in the season, we're not worried about wins and losses," said Goestenkors, who is entering her fourteenth year at Duke. "We just want to use this as an opportunity to see where we are."

Duke hopes to overcome its first-game jitters and focus throughout the whole contest, Williams said. For the senior forward and the team's other two senior captains, Monique Currie and Jessica Foley, this is the beginning of the end.

"You know, I hadn't thought about it until [Thursday] when Lindsey [Harding] said, 'Now, make the most of this practice, because it's your last, first game,'" Foley said. "Everything's going to be the last, first something this year, so, it's just exciting, and it's been a long preseason so we're ready to get going."

The Blue Devils will continue their road trip Sunday, when they take on Old Dominion at 2 p.m. The Monarchs have already sold out the Constant Center in anticipation of the opening game of one of the program's most ambitious schedules in history. In addition to the Blue Devils, Old Dominion will also play No. 2 Tennessee, No. 5 Rutgers and No. 7 North Carolina.

The Nittany Lions and the Monarchs are just two of the five games Duke will play in a ten-day span to start its season. Williams said it is a packed schedule but the team feels altogether ready for it.

"This team's really going to have to stay focused, this team's really going to have to dig deep early in the season," Williams said. "Everyone kind of has to be settled and just kind of roll with whatever goes. But overall, just be focused and ready to play."


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