The independent news organization of Duke University

Key game for Duke in ACC quarters

Junior Cole Grossman and Duke lost 2-0 to Boston College earlier this season in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Junior Cole Grossman and Duke lost 2-0 to Boston College earlier this season in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

Coming into the 2009 season, no one expected the Blue Devils to start 4-0 and carry the momentum into a 12-5 regular season.

After losing four starting seniors, one of whom was All-American and ACC Offensive Player of the Year Mike Grella, No. 15 Duke was supposed to be heading into a down year. But with the emergence of two freshmen, forward Ryan Finley and defender Andrew Wenger, along with greater team chemistry, the Blue Devils were able to surprise some teams.

“We got to where we hoped we would be this season, which is fairly high on the RPI scale,” head coach John Kerr said. “Especially since we’re starting eight different players from last year, we have come a long way. We’re excited about the postseason.”

The reason for the success of this year’s team is hard to pinpoint, but one of the most surprising reasons is that there are no standouts on the team. Last year, with the talented Grella up top, Duke’s play revolved around getting the ball to his feet.

When an entire team is focused on one position, it is exceedingly easy for opponents to scout and defend against. However, with their balanced approach, the 2009 Blue Devils have been able to win games multiple ways.

“We’ve been getting to know each other really well and our positioning and what we’re good at,” Kerr said.

One of Duke’s strengths this year has been its midfielders, who have controlled the flow of the game and linked the defense to the offense well.

Central midfielders and senior leaders Josh Bienenfeld and Ryan McDaniel have conducted the midfield all season with their rugged play and scrappy mentality.

Supporting the defensive style of play of Bienenfeld and McDaniel has been offensively-minded newcomer Christopher Tweed-Kent. Joining the team as a sophomore, Tweed-Kent has given the Blue Devils an explosive option on the outside.

Along with the scoring capabilities of Tweed-Kent, Finley and junior Cole Grossman have given the Blue Devils offensive firepower this season, scoring nine and seven goals, respectively. The overall scoring distribution of the team has been more even than last year, with 13 different players tallying scores compared to just eight a year ago.

This emphasis on team rather than individual will serve the Blue Devils well as they enter the ACC tournament Wednesday night in Cary, N.C against third seed Boston College (11-7-0). Duke is the sixth seed in the tournament.

“Boston College is a good team,” Kerr said. “They have gotten better these last couple of weeks as well. We’re facing an opponent that’s a little different than the one we faced few weeks back.” In their matchup in late September, the Eagles defended their home turf and sent the Blue Devils back to Durham with a 2-0 loss. The game was close until the closing seconds, when the Eagles were awarded a penalty kick to seal the victory.

“They’re a good team and they have matured—but we have too,” Kerr said. “It will be an interesting test on Wednesday to see how far each team has come. We had a very good game against them a few weeks back and we’ve got a lot of confidence.” If the Blue Devils get past the Eagles Wednesday night, their next matchup would be in the semifinals against the winner of North Carolina versus N.C State. The winner of that match would likely face top seed Wake Forest in the finals Sunday.

Discussion

Share and discuss “Key game for Duke in ACC quarters” on social media.