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No. 1 North Carolina heads to Jack Katz

Defending NCAA champions. A No. 1 national ranking. An unblemished record this season. And only eight miles away from Duke.

Top-ranked North Carolina may boast a bevy of accolades, but the No. 13 Blue Devils will look to cement their own status as one of the best teams in the country Saturday at 1 p.m. when the rival Tar Heels make the short trip to Jack Katz Stadium.

“I think we’re one of the top teams in the country, too,” head coach Beth Bozman said. “I don’t think that results show it, but I think we are. We played them well in the spring, we played them well in preseason.... I think it’s going to be a real strong game for both teams.”

Duke (4-4, 0-1 in the ACC) has yet to concede more than three goals in a single game this season, while North Carolina (7-0, 1-0) has averaged just under five goals per game. The Blue Devils will look to set the pace and can take advantage of their familiarity with the Tar Heels’ style of play. Although Duke wants to dictate the flow of the game and put pressure on North Carolina, the Blue Devils may need to rely on their tough defense even more than usual Saturday.

Susan Ferger, the team’s leading scorer with three goals this year, broke her thumb last weekend and most likely will not see the field against the Tar Heels. Duke will call upon its young talent to fill the void, including freshman Emmie Le Marchand and sophomore Mary Nielsen, who have combined for four scores this season.

“The freshmen and the sophomores have had to acclimate real quickly, and I think they have,” Bozman said. “The greater their strides, the greater success we’re going to see.”

If the team’s underclassmen continue to contribute­—and if Duke makes the most of its offensive chances this weekend and beyond­—Bozman believes the Blue Devils can elevate their play to an elite level.

“We feel like we’re a work in progress... and we’re inches away from greatness,” she said. “We’ve just been emphasizing how close we are, how we just need to get that little extra inch and the whole outcome of the games are just going to be very different for us.”

Duke rounds out the weekend slate against Richmond Sunday at 1 p.m.

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