Imbesi to key defense against Cavs

Two blowout victories can certainly get a team back into its rhythm.

And after outscoring their opponents 41-4 in the past two games, the No. 5 Blue Devils try to solidify their swagger when they travel to Charlottesville, Va. to take on No. 10 Virginia Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The matchup kicks off a three-game road swing against some of the nation's top squads for Duke (8-2, 1-1 in the ACC).

As if challenging the three-time defending ACC champion does not provide enough motivation for Saturday's game, Duke will have to face a squad that boasts a high-powered attack similar to its own. Led by two of the ACC's top scorers, All-Americans Ashley McCulloch and Blair Weymouth, the Cavaliers (7-3, 1-2) will look to extend their winning streak over the Blue Devils to four games.

"[Virginia] is a very prolific offensive team," head coach Kerstin Kimel said. "They have a lot of kids, just like our attack, that have been there for a while. I think that we need to do our best to contain their heavy hitters so we limit their looks."

Senior goalkeeper Kim Imbesi, who has allowed just 10.27 scores per contest this season, figures to be the key to slowing down Virginia's offensive firepower. Although most keepers tend to accept a more passive role on defense, Imbesi defies the norm, as she has emerged as one of the team's most vocal leaders in the net.

In order to prepare for McCulloch and Weymouth, the Blue Devils have simulated some of Virginia's attackers' tendencies in practice, which has allowed Imbesi to familiarize herself with the Cavaliers' common shooting targets.

Imbesi's proactive role in goal could prove especially beneficial for Duke.

"Our goal on defense is to have everyone talking all the time, and I seem to have a dictating mentality in goal," Imbesi said. "I am a leader in the defense trying to facilitate sides and keep my head on the ball.... I try to keep a confident edge and focus on the ball and be ready to react."

This season, the Blue Devils have played their best defense as a result of flowing communication on the field. When Imbesi has lived up to her vocal role, the entire team follows suit.

And when Imbesi's teammates communicate back to her, it helps the goalie maintain a clear vision of the field.

"I don't have to worry about a girl," Imbesi said. "All I am worried about is the ball, but at the same time, I can help facilitate the communication to everyone else who is worrying about ball and girl."

And if Imbesi stays consistent as a vocal leader, the Blue Devils could be better-suited to stall the Cavaliers' offense and continue the momentum they have developed of late.


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