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Duke field hockey set to take on 2 top-15 opponents

After a 2-1 double-overtime loss to Syracuse, Duke hopes to rebound against two ranked opponents.
After a 2-1 double-overtime loss to Syracuse, Duke hopes to rebound against two ranked opponents.

After having most of last weekend off, the Blue Devils will return to the turf twice this weekend, hoping to bounce back from their first ACC loss this season.

No. 8 Duke will begin the weekend with a conference game on the road against No. 6 Virginia 6 p.m. Friday night. The Blue Devils will return to Durham Sunday afternoon to take on No. 13 Stanford in a nonconference match at noon.

“[The weekend off] came at perfect timing with our schedule and the intense overtime games that we have had,” head coach Pam Bustin said. “We have had our chance to rest and recuperate and have had good preparation for this weekend’s matches. We are ready to go into the final stretch of the regular season.”

Duke has taken its extra day off to focus on future games instead of dwelling on a double overtime loss to Syracuse last Friday. Despite the loss, the Blue Devils still sit at third place the ACC.

“Having one like that slip away is disappointing but at the same time it keeps the fire going,” Bustin said. “We are so close so we have to make sure that we take that extra step to finish it in our favor. So we have had the time off to regroup and get our legs back. We are looking forward to the opportunity [against Virginia] on Friday.”

Virginia (14-3, 2-2) is another obstacle along a tough road Duke faces in the ACC, a conference in which all seven teams are ranked in the nation's top 15. The Cavaliers began the season 12-1 but have since dropped two of their last four games.

The Blue Devils hope to avenge last season’s 3-1 Senior Day home loss to Virginia. The Cavaliers suffered an upset Sunday to William and Mary—a team that has a losing record—but that doesn’t mean that the Blue Devils are taking Friday’s game lightly.

“We go into every game thinking about ourselves,” redshirt senior midfielder Devon Gagliardi said. “We take the team that we are playing as nameless and faceless. So we are going to prepare like we would prepare for anyone else.”

Duke will then welcome Stanford (10-3), a team that sits atop the standings in the NorPac Conference’s West Division. The Cardinal has suffered against ranked opponents, losing to No. 2 Connecticut and No. 4 Syracuse, but are looking to pick up a signature win against the Blue Devils.

Stanford is led by senior forward Hope Burke, who leads her team with seven goals and four assists. She is also the only player in the conference to snag the NorPac offensive player of the week award twice this season.

“[Stanford is] a great team,” Bustin said. “For us, in preparation for postseason, it is good to get out of the ACC and see a different style of hockey.”

The Blue Devils look to continue their high level of defensive play and have only allowed 1.31 goals per game. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Lauren Blazing leads the country in save percentage and is averaging 6.08 saves per game.

The Duke defense will have its hands full, however, with a Virginia team that is scoring 3.06 goals per game, and a Cardinal squad that is averaging 3.00 goals per game, good for 16th and 17th in the nation.

“It was just unfortunate that [Syracuse] had that goal against us [last week],” senior defender Brenna Rescigno said. “But I think we just need to work harder, finishing on the attacking end. Our defense is going to take the next game and play as hard as we did against Syracuse and hopefully come away with a win.”

The Blue Devils will look to pick up two quality wins this weekend, something that would bolster their postseason resume. A win against Virginia would give Duke its third ACC win.

“Friday night for the conference game, we are going to have to stay with the mentality of doing what we have to in our conference,” Bustin said.


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