As the Blue Devils concluded their Wednesday afternoon practice, they erupted into the well-known "Go to Hell Carolina" chant most often heard on the basketball court or the football field.
But Saturday, when No. 9 Duke hosts No. 5 North Carolina at Williams Field at 1 p.m., it will be clear that this storied rivalry translates onto the field hockey pitch, as well.
"It's Carolina," head coach Beth Bozman said. "You don't need any great motivational speeches before this game.... We respect them, and you want to beat a team you hold in top regard. It is a fun competition."
Bozman's players echoed this sentiment, as evidenced not only by their emphatic post-practice cheer, but also in their attitude entering the game.
"It's Duke-UNC," junior co-captain Lauren Miller said. "So no matter what, you are going to be excited to play."
This chapter in the historic rivalry will be all the more competitive because of the recent success of both programs. The Blue Devils (6-2, 0-1 in the ACC) have won six of their last seven games, including a victory over then-No. 5 Iowa. The Tar Heels (6-2, 0-0), meanwhile, are the defending national champions and come into Durham riding a five-game winning streak of their own.
Duke faces the challenge of shutting down a high-powered North Carolina offense, which has scored as many as eleven goals in a game this year and is led by junior Danielle Forword, who has scored 12 goals in this young season.
However, the Blue Devils maintain that the game will be determined not by the talent of their opponent, but by Duke's own unique game plan.
"We're not really concentrating on them as much as we're trying to improve bit by bit, and we are improving every game," Bozman said. "We need to stick to our game plan. Things will work out well if we stick to that plan."
"We just focus on playing our game and doing things that we know we can do really well," senior co-captain Marian Dickinson said. "We're not focusing as much on them as we are on ourselves."
Furthermore, the Blue Devils have no trepidations regarding North Carolina's higher ranking, or their previous success.
"The whole underdog thing goes away when it comes to Duke-UNC," Miller said. "It doesn't matter who's ranked higher, but rather it's just an exciting rivalry. Everyone gets up to play in that game."
Dickinson also was unfazed by the Tar Heels' previous success.
"I don't think that last year has anything to do with this year," she said.
One new aspect of the rivalry, though, is Duke's relative youth this season: the Blue Devils have six freshmen who will face the Tar Heels for the first time, including midfielder Megan Deakins.
However, nerves appear to be playing no role in Deakins' preparation for the showdown.
"I feel extremely confident. Everyone on the team is so helpful," Deakins said. "UNC is no different or any better than any other team we've played."
Indeed, while the matchup versus the Tar Heels is paramount because of the rivalry, in terms of Duke's goals for the season it is just another challenging game.
"Every time we've been tested and we come out on top it's only helped us more," Bozman said, "It is such a growing experience for most of the team because we're so young."
Deakins' outlook on the contest was a bit more straight forward.
"Our goal for this season is to win a national championship," Deakins said. "A win will give us confidence for the future."
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