The independent news organization of Duke University

Duke field hockey begins preseason with scrimmages against Davidson, Wake Forest

<p>Senior Aileen Johnson and the Blue Devils will meet two in-state rivals this weekend as they get ready for the regular season.</p>

Senior Aileen Johnson and the Blue Devils will meet two in-state rivals this weekend as they get ready for the regular season.

In another sign that the fall semester is just around the corner, blue and white jerseys could be seen darting up and down the field at Jack Katz Stadium Wednesday.

Duke kicked off preseason camp with a full team practice on its home turf on East Campus Wednesday. The Blue Devils, who return nine starters from the 2014 squad, will train for just more than two weeks before beginning their season with a road trip to California. A key portion of that training will take place this weekend, as Duke begins exhibition play against two in-state foes.

The Blue Devils—who finished last season ranked ninth in the country—will take on Davidson in an 11 a.m. scrimmage Saturday and face off against defending ACC champion Wake Forest at noon Sunday, with both games to be played at Jack Katz Stadium.

“We’re going to take each day differently,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. "Saturday is not that far into training, so we are going to use it to work on some things that, fundamentally, we’ve been working on in the earlier part of this week. On Sunday, [we will] hopefully have a chance to work out different formations and different people at different positions just to see what works best and what feels best for people.”

For Duke’s six freshmen, the weekend scrimmages are an opportunity to showcase their talent and prove that they have what it takes to earn a coveted starting position.

The chance is there for the freshmen, as the Blue Devils are looking to replace three seniors, including leading scorer Jessica Buttinger. But with talent up and down the roster, the newcomers will need to make the most of their opportunities if they hope to make the starting lineup.

Replacing Buttinger’s 22 points from last season, however, will be a team responsibility, and a challenge that Bustin’s squad is eager to take on, as the group looks forward to developing during the coming weeks.

“We have a lot of returners and a really good recruiting class, so I am really excited to see us mold as a team,” senior midfielder Aileen Johnson said. “I think our culture is really great at bringing people in…everyone is equal and everyone is going to do their share.”

The Blue Devils’ greatest defensive asset, redshirt senior goalkeeper Lauren Blazing, will return to her place between the pipes this weekend ahead of her final season in a Duke uniform.

Blazing—a second-team All American last year—returns home a gold medal winner after competing for the U.S. National Team as a reserve goalie at the Pan American Games in Toronto. The Durham native competed alongside former Blue Devil defender Stefanie Fee, who helped lift the United States past Argentina 2-1 in the final.

With 57 starts to her name, Blazing and the rest of the Duke defense got an in-depth look at the program’s new faces Wednesday as they matched up against some of Bustin's freshmen in the team’s first practice.

Caroline Andretta and Rose Tynan are listed as true forwards and Erin Scherrer plays a mix of midfield and forward. Rounding out the six-person class are Christy Palazzese at midfield, Morgan Bitting at midfield and defense, and Sammi Stelle in goal.

“It’s really nice to see the talent coming through," sophomore forward Ashley Kristen said. “They came out really strong in our first practice. There can be a little bit of anxiety coming in, but they came on strong and did well.”

Following the weekend exhibition play the Blue Devils will have a week of practice before traveling to Virginia Beach, Va., to scrimmage American in their final competition of the preseason. Duke’s first regular-season game will be played on the road against California Aug. 28.

“Already, the kids pretty much know each other,” Bustin said.” Now it’s just a matter of getting them on the field as much as we can and putting them in situations where they’ve got to figure things out together. I think we’ll be able to get a good jump on that this weekend.”

Discussion

Share and discuss “Duke field hockey begins preseason with scrimmages against Davidson, Wake Forest” on social media.