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Duke ready for home opener

After four consecutive away games to start the season, the Blue Devils could not be more excited to be home.

The No. 9 Blue Devils (3-1) will start ACC play against the No. 20 Demon Deacons (1-3) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in their home opener. Duke ran away with a 6-1 victory when the teams met in a preseason exhibition.

“It’s an exciting task to take [Wake Forest] on again because we know that they’re going to be coming back for revenge,” sophomore Emmie Le Marchand said. “I like to think we embarrassed them a little bit. We know that it’s going to be tough, but I think it’s good to have that challenge first up when we’re at home in front of the fans.”

Duke has made many changes since its last appearance on Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium. First year head coach Pam Bustin has incorporated a new formation into the team’s gameplan which gives seasoned players as well as freshmen more opportunities in front of the net. According to Le Marchand, the new structure allows more balls to be passed through the midfield and keeps the defense more organized.

The new offensive tactics have paid off, as the team has outshot and outscored its opponents 94-30 and 12-7, respectively. Le Marchand already has four goals on the season, including three this past weekend. Freshman Jessica Buttinger closely follows with three goals in just four games this year.

When the ball does make it to the backfield, the Blue Devil defense is prepared. Last weekend, senior goalkeeper Samantha Nielson recorded her 13th career shutout with three saves against Drexel.

“We, fortunately, have the talent and the depth to play this type of structure and formation where we’re really putting numbers up above the 50, past the midfield and up to the forward line,” Bustin said. “It relies on a lot of teamwork and it relies on a lot of communication and some good awareness.”

The Blue Devils have already defeated two ranked opponents during the regular season, then-No. 6 Ohio State and then-No. 18 Drexel. Although her team defeated Wake Forest in the preseason, Bustin never takes ACC opponents for granted.

“The preseason win just shows that we were maybe a bit more prepared at preseason,” Bustin said. “I’m prepared for a battle. It’s going to be so much fun….That’s what you expect when you play ACC field hockey.”

Duke will round out the weekend with another home match against Longwood (2-2) on Sunday. The team is excited to be back playing in front of a home crowd.

“I think people are going to want to watch [these games],” Le Marchand said. “The whole of the ACC is going to be watching to see how this pans out.”

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