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Duke field hockey opens home slate with Princeton and Temple

After an undefeated pair of games on the road, No. 4 Duke looks ahead to a challenging weekend at home.

The Blue Devils welcome No. 7 Princeton to Jack Katz Stadium Friday at 4:30 p.m. for their home opener. Afterward, Duke will round out its weekend with a second home game against Temple Sunday at 1 p.m.

“All weekend—both games—it’s going to be a great level of competition for us,” head coach Pam Bustin said.

The Blue Devils (2-0) will be the first team going up against the Tigers in the 2014 season. Princeton returns three of its five leading scorers from last season's squad, which finished undefeated in the Ivy League last season and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament. The Tigers bested then-No. 10 Duke last September to bring the series record to 5-2 in their favor.

Although the home field usually brings an advantage, Princeton claimed wins in both of its previous games in Durham in 1998 and 2012. Instead, Duke’s advantage lies in already having played and won two games; the Tigers have yet to take the field for an actual game this year.

“We’re coming off a two-win weekend,” senior forward Jessica Buttinger said. “This week we’ve been focusing on the little things we wanted to sharpen up from this past weekend, so if anything it’s definitely helped us to be a weekend ahead.”

Princeton can only hope to open its season with the same success it closed with last year. With a threatening 3.21 goals per game—ninth-best in the nation—the Tigers will rely on a strong scoring attack to put away the Blue Devils early.

“They’re a great opponent,” Bustin said. “That’s the game we’re ready for, and that’s the game we’re looking forward to… When two teams get out there with the experience that both Princeton and Duke have, it’s just gong to be a great game.”

The Princeton offense is likely to put pressure on the Duke backfield from the start. Redshirt junior goalkeeper Lauren Blazing notched 11 saves and allowed just two goals in her opening weekend, entering Friday with a 0.846 save percentage across two games. Blazing and the rest of the Blue Devil defense will be up against a Tiger squad that averaged more than 8.5 penalty corners per game last season.

On the other end of the field, Duke’s offense had an impressive start to its 2014 stint, logging six goals from four different scorers over the course of the weekend. Against a high-scoring team like Princeton, the Blue Devils will have to carry this scoring success over to Friday’s game.

“A lot of our offense is generated through our good defense,” Bustin said. “If we’re under some pressure—which I’m sure we will be—how we handle that and how we break out from that is going to be what sparks our attack.”

After Friday, Duke will set its sights on the Owls (2-0), who are set to play Rutgers Friday before coming to Durham. The strength of the Temple team comes from its seniors, namely Big East Defensive Player of the Week and Corvias ECAC Player of the Week goalkeeper Lizzy Millen heading up the defense and Amber Youtz leading the offense. Millen finished 2013 with a 0.766 save percentage, and Youtz led her team in goals and points last season.

“Temple’s always a strong program,” Bustin said. “They’re fast, they’re strong and they don’t quit. It’s another great challenge for us to see where we are and how we respond to teams like that.”

Duke leads the all-time series 8-1 and has allowed just four goals to Temple since the teams’ first meeting in 1988. But this year’s Owls are off to an impressive start, notching wins against Northeastern and No. 10 Massachusetts.

“It’s funny, because you look throughout the standings, even this past weekend, and all of the games were super close,” Buttinger said. “To me, that just signifies that every team’s going for it this year, and that means don’t take anyone lightly. We’re going to treat Princeton the way we’re going to treat Temple, and we’re just going to play a Duke field hockey game.”


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