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Duke field hockey continues gauntlet with No. 9 Louisville Friday

<p>Sophomore Ashley Kristen leads the nation with nine assists this season and will lead the Blue Devil attack Friday against No. 7 Louisville as Duke seeks its first ACC win.</p>

Sophomore Ashley Kristen leads the nation with nine assists this season and will lead the Blue Devil attack Friday against No. 7 Louisville as Duke seeks its first ACC win.

For the eighth time in nine games, Duke will face a top-15 opponent, looking to keep building momentum from wins against then-No. 15 Old Dominion and then-No. 12 Delaware.

The No. 5 Blue Devils will host No. 9 Louisville Friday at 6 p.m. at Jack Katz Stadium before stepping back into nonconference play to take on Longwood Sunday at 2 p.m. After beating the Blue Hens 5-1 a week ago, Duke will be trying to avoid a letdown and capture its first conference win of the year.

The Blue Devils moved up one spot in the national rankings this week after beating the previously-undefeated Blue Hens. Duke is one of four ACC teams ranked in the top five, joining No. 2 Syracuse, No. 3 North Carolina and No. 4 Virginia.

The Blue Devils (6-3, 0-2 in the ACC) are still looking for their elusive first conference win, making Friday's matchup against the Cardinals (6-3, 0-3) a crucial one for head coach Pam Bustin’s squad. Four of Duke's six wins have come against ranked opponents, but the Blue Devils sit in a tie for fifth place in the ACC standings with a long uphill climb to get back in contention for a league championship.

Against Delaware last week, five different Duke players scored, Senior Hannah Barreca, junior Robin Blazing and sophomore Ainsley Gill all contributed goals and junior Heather Morris added to her team-leading tally with her sixth of the year to open the scoring in the 14th minute. The Blue Devils scored five goals for the third time this season and outshot the Blue Hens 20-12.

The balanced attack that gave Duke so much firepower last week against the Blue Hens will be much needed this weekend as well. Morris and sophomore Ashley Kristen have headlined this attack so far, with 31 combined points. Kristin leads the nation with nine assists on the year. 

Duke will need a big night from its offense Friday night against a Cardinal offense that leads the ACC in penalty corners with an average of 8.0 per contest. This is first time the Cardinals have traveled to Durham since 2009 and the Blue Devils have revenge on their mind as Duke lost at Louisville last year, 2-1.

The Blue Devils finish up their homestand with Lancers (3-5) Sunday, the first meeting between the teams since 1986. The Lancers leading scorer, Jennifer Burris, is second in the MAC in goals per game with 0.8 and third in points per game with 1.6.

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