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Duke women's soccer looks to wrap up nonconference play with a winning record against Hofstra, LSU

After riding a three-game winning streak, the Blue Devils suffered a difficult loss in their own Nike Classic to Penn State. Now, Duke will look to improve on an even record with games against Hofstra and LSU in the final week before ACC play begins.

The Blue Devils will take on Hofstra in Charlottesville, Va., Friday at 3 p.m. The Pride returns 12 players from its 2012 Colonial Athletic Association championship squad, including leading scorers Sam Scolarici and Leah Galton. Scolarici, a senior, set Hofstra’s career goal record in the team’s 9-1 win against Indiana State Sunday.

“If we make a mistake they’re going to punish us [with] an assist or a goal,” head coach Robbie Church said of Hofstra’s dynamic duo. “We have to be aware of where those players are at all times. They definitely have us worried. They’re going to test us.”

Hofstra will head into its game against Duke with a 3-2 record, after losing to 1-0 Connecticut Aug. 22 and 4-0 West Virginia Friday, a team the Blue Devils upset for their first win of the season just one week later.

Duke will return to Koskinen Stadium to take on the Tigers (3-2-1) Sunday at 1 p.m. The last time Duke played LSU was back in 2009. The game ended in a 2-2 draw after two overtimes.

“They’re gonna be a good team,” Church said. “This is gonna be a big game for them. It’s a huge game for us and we’re both heading into our last weekend of non-conference play. When NCAA [tournament] selection time comes, we want to give them a good non-conference resume and so this is our last chance to put some more wins on top of the ones we have before we open up ACC play.”

Duke (3-3) began the season with a pair of losses to Ohio State and Stanford before finding some success on offense against West Virginia and UAB. In the Duke Nike Classic this past weekend, the Blue Devils found continued success on offense with a 3-0 win against then-No. 18 Arkansas. Duke’s luck came to an end, however, after a narrow defeat at the hands of the No. 7 Nittany Lions.

Unlike their first two losses, the Blue Devils had no trouble finishing the ball during their Nike Classic loss to Penn State. With 20 shots and three goals, Duke’s offense was consistent throughout the game, but it seemed that every time it scored, the defense would allow Penn State to retaliate. The Nittany Lions eventually outplayed the Blue Devils at their own game, utilizing the technical prowess and efficient ground game that Duke runs.

“It was a tough game, and a tougher loss,” Church said. “It was just one that we felt we should’ve won. We played well enough at times to win the game, [but] we made crucial mistakes, and when you make crucial mistakes against good teams they’re going to punish you for it.”

Although the Blue Devils seem to have found their offensive stride after a bit of a scoring deficit at the beginning of the season, their defense is still a work in progress. Against Penn State, there were multiple instances where player miscommunication on defense resulted in dangerous opportunities for the Nittany Lions. One of these instances resulted in a Penn State goal.

“Offensively we’re in good shape right now. We have a great attacking mentality and we’re very aggressive going forward,” Church said. “Team defending is our major thing. We have to make sure that when the ball’s turned over we get back behind the ball and do a little bit of dirty work.”

Although its 3-3 record looks meager on paper, two of its losses were to top 10 programs. And despite the defensive flaws, Duke is confident with the level at which it is performing going into its last weekend of nonconference play.

“I like this team a lot. It’s a really good team. Maybe it’s a bit inexperienced, [but] I’m confident this team could play with anybody in the country. We’ve played with two top 10 teams and we were right there in both games,” Church contended. “We’re not far away from being really, really good.”

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