Over the course of the season, No. 12 Duke has steadily progressed, going 5-1 in its last six games.
The Blue Devils (11-7, 1-4 in the ACC) have a chance to show just how far they have come when they clash with third-ranked and defending conference champion Wake Forest (12-4, 3-2) Thursday in the first round of the ACC tournament. The game between the No. 3 and No. 6 seeds is slated for 4 p.m. in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
With its first-round matchup, Duke is looking to avenge a 4-2 loss to the Demon Deacons Sep. 8.
"It just adds more fuel to the fire," said freshman Camille Dagorn. "It gives us more motivation."
In its loss to Wake Forest, Duke had many scoring chances but struggled to turn these opportunities into points. In that match, the Blue Devils had 18 shot attempts to the Demon Deacon's 12 and held an 11-3 advantage in attempted corners.
This time around, Duke believes its improvement could help turn those missed chances into goals.
"We know what we were like last time," head coach Beth Bozman said. "We still managed a lot of shots and corner opportunities. We've been moving on."
Recently, the Blue Devils have done an excellent job of finishing, scoring three goals or more in their past five games. In one of these contests, Duke dispatched then-No.11 Old Dominion, who beat the Blue Devils earlier in the year.
Duke knows that its focus in practice and its increased team chemistry are both responsible for the change.
"We've really matured as players," senior goalie Caitlin Williams said. "We've really come together to work as a team."
Though the Blue Devils are a better squad than they were in September, they enter conference tournament play on a sour note. In its season finale on Oct. 27, Duke dropped a 5-3 contest to Virginia on the road. After the game, Bozman was not at all pleased with her team's effort.
Although the loss was disappointing, the Blue Devils know that forgetting the past and focusing on the present is important.
"It was a very tough loss," Williams said. "But we've put it behind us."
Keying in on the Demon Deacons is especially important because of the possible implications. A win would improve Duke's NCAA tournament résumé and give it another chance against No. 2 Maryland. The victory also would bring the Blue Devils one step closer to capturing the conference crown, a feat Duke has never accomplished under Bozman's leadership.
Although the Blue Devils have many reasons to play as hard as they can when they take the field in Chestnut Hill, they are trying to not lose sight of the task in front of them.
"We're in situations where we're one-and-done," Bozman said. "We're treating each game like it's our last, and it could be our last. I feel like our team will come out on fire."
In addition, Williams, along with juniors Marian Dickinson and Laura Suchoski, were named to the 2007 All-ACC team Wednesday. The recognition is the second straight for Suchoski and the first for Dickinson and Williams.
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