Duke seeks to avenge ACC title game defeat

Heading into last year's ACC championship game, Duke was looking to cap off an incredible conference run with a win over Virginia.

The Blue Devils entered that contest boasting a 15-1 record and a six-game winning streak, which included a victory over eventual national champion Northwestern.

The lone blemish on their regular-season schedule was an April 1, 2006 11-10 loss to the Cavaliers. Despite the defeat, Duke secured the top seed in the ACC tournament and was looking to repeat as conference champions when they squared off in the rematch with the Cavaliers for the ACC title.

Their perfect ending to the ACC tournament, however, became a nightmare when Virginia used a six-goal blitz in the second half to knock off Duke 13-8 and captured the conference title.

Now, the fifth-ranked Blue Devils (8-1, 1-1 in the ACC) hope to take down one of the two teams that handed them a loss last season when they clash with fourth-ranked Cavaliers (9-1, 2-1) 12 p.m. Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.

"UNC's supposed to be our biggest rival, but UVa actually is," senior attack Leigh Jester said. "Every year we play them, it's usually a tight game. This year, we're looking for a better result."

Over their last five games, four of which have been wins, the Blue Devils have averaged 16 goals. One explanation for the increase in offensive production is balance-Duke has five players that each have scored at least 17 goals this season.

Junior Caroline Cryer leads the Blue Devils with 31 goals.

Even with these numbers, however, the Blue Devils believe their offense can get better-particularly at the beginning of games. In their 16-7 win over Virginia Tech March 23, Duke was shut out for the first 14 minutes of the game.

"We met as a team and talked about being ready to go emotionally," head coach Kerstin Kimel said. "It's important to start games consistently."

A solid start is particularly important for the Blue Devils as they take on an extremely talented Virginia squad led by midfielder Blair Weymouth.

The sophomore was the consensus National Rookie of the Year last season and was also the only freshman named to the All-ACC team.

She tied the freshman assists record with 21 and scored 49 goals in her 2006 campaign. Weymouth is already on the watch list for the Tewaaraton Trophy-given to the top women's lacrosse player in the country-after being recognized as a finalist for the trophy last year.

Perhaps most importantly, Weymouth scored six goals in last year's conference championship win against Duke. The effort tied the record for goals scored in an ACC final.

For the Blue Devils, defending Weymouth will just be another part of the challenge this weekend.

"It's a new season," junior attack Caroline Cryer said. "We're ready to get out there and play a tough ACC game."

This weekend's match also marks the start of a brutal four-game road trip, during which Duke will face off against No. 11 Notre Dame and No. 1 Northwestern, which regained the top spot in the country March 26.

With only six games left before the conference tournament begins, the Blue Devils know how pivotal each of their upcoming contests is.

"It's a turning point for the team," Jester said. "It's a time when we can make really big strides and get better for the NCAA tournament."


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