The Blue Devils will rely on a simple game plan to capture their first ACC win of the season this weekend: Put the ball in the back of the cage.
No. 9 Duke (6-3, 0-2 in the ACC) hopes to bounce back from a disappointing loss to North Carolina last week by capitalizing on its offensive chances against No. 13 Boston College Saturday at 1 p.m. and Boston University Sunday at 1 p.m. at Williams Field.
"I think we need to finish some opportunities that we had on Saturday [against UNC]," head coach Beth Bozman said. "If you look at the video, we were quarters of an inch away from some great scoring opportunities that we let slip by."
The Blue Devils scored early against the then-No. 5 Tar Heels, but conceded two goals in the second half and failed to score again.
Despite averaging almost 14 shots per game this season, the team has only mustered a scoring average of less than two goals per contest. In ACC play, Duke is fifth of six schools in goals per game.
Regardless of the fact that the ACC boasts five top-10 teams, the Blue Devils realize they must find a way to ignite the offense at this critical juncture halfway through the regular season.
"This team is making unbelievable progress so far, but there's a time when you have to just buckle down on your strengths and hit home with what you can," senior co-captain Laura Suchoski said. "The biggest part of our game that we have to improve on is just execution on the offensive end. Getting the 'W' all comes down to putting the ball in the cage."
The team certainly does not lack talent at the forward position. Junior Amie Survilla played for the U-21 national team and sophomore Susan Ferger was named Central Ohio Field Hockey Player of the Year in 2006. Since the Blue Devils already possess the technical skill needed to light up the scoreboard, maintaining mental toughness will be the key to increasing their scoring output this weekend.
"It's just a little bit of a focus thing," senior co-captain Marian Dickinson said. "We know what we're meant to be doing, and we're in the right places. It's just that second or two of making sure that you're lower, you're following through."
Duke's offense seems poised to find a rhythm against Boston College (6-3, 0-2), a team with the worst goals allowed average in the ACC. Yet even if the Blue Devils can pick up their first conference victory Saturday, they will face another stern test the next day. Although Boston University (4-6) is not ranked, the Terriers defeated then-No. 8 Virginia, who, in turn, defeated Boston College.
The unveiling of Williams Field's new bleachers may help Duke turn the corner, but the Blue Devils know that more consistent offensive production, and not more fans, will ultimately be responsible for potential success this weekend-as well as the remainder of the season.
"We know ourselves to a 'T' about what we need to do in order to get it done on the field," Suchoski said. "Our desire to put the ball in the cage when it counts is what the second half of the season is going to be all about."
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