No. 2 Duke has been no stranger to close finishes in this young season. In an exhibition against the U.S. National Team, the Blue Devils scored a goal with 5.8 seconds left to win the match. Last weekend, it took overtime to determine a winner against No. 19 Bucknell. According to senior Max Quinzani, tests like these have already proven to be beneficial to the team.
“This has been the most gratifying opener I have had in my four years here,” Quinzani said. “I’ve got a smile on my face and I think everyone does—we know we aren’t invincible anymore.”
Though Duke (1-0) has faced its share of difficulties in the previous two matches, head coach John Danowski has been particularly impressed by his team’s effort at this early stage.
“The thing that we liked in both contests was that we played hard start to finish—maybe not smart for 60 minutes or well the whole time, but hard,” Danowski said. “The other stuff is going to come. It’s still February.... We’ve only been out for a month, [and] the hope is that it will help us down the road in crunch time.”
Duke faces another stiff early-season test this Saturday when No. 9 Notre Dame (0-0) visits Koskinen Stadium at 1 p.m. The Irish come into this season hungry to erase the memories of last year. With a talented collection of players, the Irish went 15-0 in the 2009 regular season before losing to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This year’s team features some of the same talent and Danowski expects the Fighting Irish to be hungry.
“They have a lot of guys back,” Danowski said. “I’m sure they look at this game as a benchmark. You play Duke in anything, any sport; you play Duke in chess, you get fired up. It’s such a big game for them.”
The Irish figure to test Duke’s powerful offense with a stout defense led by one of the nation’s top goalies in senior All-American Scott Rodgers. Rodgers led all Division I goalies last season in goals-against average (6.14) and save percentage (.663). According to Quinzani, the Blue Devils will have to have a short memory if Rodgers continues with his stellar play.
“Their goalie is a big man-child,” Quinzani said. “He’s going to get a lot of saves, so we are going to have to be persistent, keep on shooting. We concentrate on every facet of attack, we kind of have instant amnesia [and] we know he is going to get a couple stops. We just have to keep on bearing down.”
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