Up-and-down Duke takes on No. 1 UNC

The North Carolina men’s basketball team isn’t the only team in Chapel Hill defending a national championship, and Thursday, Duke gets a shot at the other one.

The Blue Devils take on the No. 1 Tar Heels, the 2008 national champions, tonight at Fetzer Field at 7 p.m. This is the first of many games in Duke’s grueling ACC schedule, as the matchup with the Tar Heels is the first of four straight contests against ranked opponents for Duke (4-3-2).

North Carolina is coming off a tie with Auburn Sunday at Koskinen Stadium as part of the Duke/Nike Classic, but that might have been its worst performance all season. Led by forward Jessica McDonald, North Carolina (7-0-1) has rolled through many of its opponents this season. The Tar Heel defense has also performed well—North Carolina has allowed only two goals all season, and those scores came in a blowout win against UCLA over a month ago.

North Carolina will be without two star players, goalie Ashlyn Harris and midfielder Tobin Heath, who are both at U.S. National camp, and forward Nikki Washington, who tore her ACL Friday.

Duke is coming off a 2-2 tie with LSU Sunday. In that game, the Blue Devils allowed two unanswered goals in the second half, but Duke plans to avoid a similar letdown against their local rivals.

“We don’t want that to happen again,” senior KayAnne Gummersall said. “Once we get that lead we want to keep it. Going into the ACC, if we’re getting a two-goal lead we’re going to have to keep it if we want to succeed.”

To bounce back against the top-ranked Tar Heels, Duke will need to be aggressive in creating scoring chances.

Trouble finishing have plagued the team all season. In their first nine games, the Blue Devils have taken 203 shots, more than 22 a game. But shots have not always been converted into goals. Against the Tigers, Duke dominated play and outshot LSU 33-10 but could not secure the win.  

Though the offense has sometimes struggled, Duke has had solid play in the back four and in net. So far, Duke has only allowed three total goals in the first half, but six in the second half. Head coach Robbie Church emphasized the need to maintain consistency for 90 minutes, especially against a team of North Carolina’s caliber, because even a minor lapse could cost Duke the game.

“You’ve got to play at a very high level against them,” Church said. “And if not, then they’re going to expose you.”

Duke’s freshman play could be key in tonight’s contest. Defenders Nicole Lipp and Erin Koballa have started all nine games and Maddy Haller has started seven, but none has experienced the type of challenge a trip to Chapel Hill will present.

Starting goalie Tara Campbell, also a freshman, seems up to the challenge.

“I’m just really excited. This is the big game that everyone talks about,” Campbell said. “I think it will be a great atmosphere, a lot of fun and hopefully we can come out with the win.”

Duke has lost 31 of its last 35 matches against North Carolina. The last win came October 9, 2005 in a 2-1 victory. 


Share and discuss “Up-and-down Duke takes on No. 1 UNC” on social media.