Blue Devils amped for conference rivalry

After successfully mowing down their non-conference competition, the Blue Devils are ready to take it up a notch and throw their season into high gear.

No. 3 Duke (4-0) kicks off ACC play with a bang, hosting No. 5 Maryland (2-0) Saturday at 1 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium.

And the Blue Devils are more than ready to take on their conference foe, one of the nation's best.

"We are so excited to play them, and we have been gearing up all week," said junior Carolyn Davis, who leads Duke with 13 goals. "We are going to try to play our game and be up in their grill."

The Blue Devils have only faced one ranked opponent this year, when they handily defeated then-No. 18 Richmond by nine goals Feb. 22. But head coach Kerstin Kimel said her team is ready for its first top-five foe, despite playing its fourth consecutive contest without senior Caroline Cryer. Kimel said Cryer is still battling a foot injury.

"We usually do play Maryland a little on the earlier side," Kimel said. "For us, we have been practicing for almost six weeks now. We have played six times--two scrimmages, four games-I mean, why not play them? Maybe is it sometimes better to play people early than to play them later in the season once they get their groove on."

Duke, however, looks to avoid falling flat for the second year in a row against the Terrapins. In last year's contest in College Park, Md., the Blue Devils fought back from a five-goal deficit late in the game, but ultimately fell short and lost 19-18. Duke drew some positives from the tilt but knows that a repeat of last year's performance, specifically in the way they started the game, will not get the job done.

"More than the score, it's the fact that we did not come out well, and we were not mentally prepared [or] ready to go against them," Kimel said. "And going to be as much as a problem [this year]. I think this group remembers that, and I think they are going to come out more prepared to come out ready to play."

Even the newest members of the squad have been eagerly anticipating the shot at revenge.

"I watched the game last year and I saw them lose by one goal, so I am excited to come out and change it this year," freshman Emma Hamm said. "I have already been thinking about it a lot, and I am getting nervous energy, which hopefully I will be able to turn into positive energy by Saturday."

One of the keys to the game for the Blue Devils will be limiting their turnovers. The Blue Devils recorded 23 in last year's contest, the high for the whole season. This year, Duke has only lost the turnover battle once-in their opening contest when it registered 18-but has still committed 53 on the year, three more than it has forced.

In Kimel's eyes, keeping possession of the ball is of upmost importance.

"With Maryland, you have to have the ball more than they do," Kimel said. "That's the bottom line."


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