Coming off its worst loss in five years, No. 4 Duke (10-2, 2-1 in the ACC) is preparing to regain some of the confidence and momentum it lost after being ousted 17-5 by No. 1 Northwestern April 7.
Duke's road to recovery starts against ACC opponent Boston College (5-7, 1-2) Saturday afternoon in Newton, Mass.
The Blue Devils did not look like their normal selves last weekend in Evanston Ill., as they played a sloppy offensive game-producing 12 fewer goals than their season average of 17 per game. That contest marked only the third time in the last four years that Duke has posted five goals or fewer in a regular season game-the other two coming in losses against then-No.1 Princeton teams in 2004 and 2005.
"I think that part of our sloppiness, particularly on the offensive end, was kind of an anomaly," head coach Kerstin Kimel said. "I don't foresee that becoming a pattern for us".
Boston College is heading into Saturday's game on a high note. In their last game, the Eagles ended a four-game losing streak by edging out Marist 9-8 on April 7 in Newton. On top of that, Boston College has played its best lacrosse at home this year, posting a 3-1 record.
Last season, however, Duke manhandled the less-talented Eagles 19-5 on Boston College's home turf. This season, the Blue Devils are positioning themselves to repeat their domination.
"Offensively we're definitely looking to get back after BC in this next game and just really take it to them," junior Caroline Cryer said.
Duke has scored 182 goals this season, 39 more than the Eagles. One of the main reasons that the Blue Devils have been so productive this season is their ability to share the ball on the attack. Duke has recorded 80 assists this season and five players have scored more than 20 goals.
And since the Blue Devils will field a more potent offensive unit than the Eagles, Duke's focus on Saturday will be the same it has been all week during practice-on its ability to play strong and aggressive defense.
"This week we've tried to do a good job of going back to basics, the things that have historically made Duke defense 'Duke defense'," junior defender Aiyana Newton said. "This year it's been more relaxed initially and now I think we're just holding people accountable and holding people to that standard."
The Blue Devils have also taken the past week to regroup and even change up their strategy. Over the last few games the team has relied more on a relaxed, "packed-in" scheme that kept defensemen close to the net and to one another-something Kimel said started to seem unnatural for her team.
"We've always been a pressure defense, man-to-man defense kind of team, so we're trying to get back to that and get back to some of our basics," Kimel said. "Poor defensive play really had become a pattern and we felt like we really needed to completely revisit and revamp what we were doing."
And while Kimel added that she did not want to take any team for granted, especially since BC is an ACC foe, there is a sense that Saturday's game will be a chance for Duke not only to reassert itself offensively, but to regain its footing defensively.
"I think it's a time to focus on us and I think BC gives us the opportunity to get back to things that make our defense confident and make us play well together," Newton said.
And then, grinning, she added one more thing.
"I feel bad for them that we're playing them this weekend after coming off a loss like [the one against] Northwestern."
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