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Duke field hockey heads to Boston to take on 2 more ranked opponents

<p>Junior Heather Morris has emerged as a consistent offensive weapon for the Blue Devils and will look to add to her season totals this weekend in Boston.</p>

Junior Heather Morris has emerged as a consistent offensive weapon for the Blue Devils and will look to add to her season totals this weekend in Boston.

After wrapping up a four-game homestand with a 4-0 record and two shutout victories, the Blue Devils have the chance to earn a pair of valuable road wins when they make a trip to the Northeast this weekend.

No. 4 Duke will go for its second ACC win Friday at 6 p.m. when it faces No. 10 Boston College at the Newton Field Hockey Complex in Newton, Mass. The Blue Devils will then travel to neighboring Boston to take on No. 17 Boston University Sunday at 1 p.m. at New Balance Field.

The road trip will send Duke into a hostile environment for the first time since Sept. 18, when the Blue Devils struggled to recover from an early deficit against then-No. 4 Virginia. Duke will look to avoid a similar result this weekend by being aggressive on offense and trusting in a defense that has not allowed a goal in the team’s last 195 minutes of play.

“We need to make sure that we…are ready to come out on the attacking side of the game,” Duke head coach Pam Bustin said. “[We need to] really come out with the attacking mindset and be willing to play the game and put up the fight for the full 70 minutes.”

The Blue Devil defense has not allowed a goal since Delaware knocked in a rebound in the 15th minute in Duke’s 5-1 rout of the Blue Hens Sept. 25.

Duke’s goals against average has benefitted from steady rains associated with Hurricane Joaquin, which limited scoring chances in last weekend’s game against then-No. 9 Louisville. But the skies were mostly clear two days later when the Blue Devils (8-3, 1-2 in the ACC) posted a 7-0 shutout against Longwood.

More impactful that any hurricane has been Duke’s continued focus on improving its defense, and the results are beginning to show. The Cardinals mustered only seven shots in their visit to Jack Katz Stadium. The Lancers got off three.

Sophomore midfielder Alyssa Chillano made a splash on both sides of the ball against Longwood, posting a hat trick and helping the defense record its second straight shutout. For her efforts, the Phoenixville, Pa., native picked up ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

“Our individual defense has been really improved, and when your individual defense gets better, the confidence of your team defense improves,” Bustin said. “That’s what we’re seeing right now. The players have put a lot of time in focusing on their individual defense and really committing themselves to what the team needs in regards to defensive structure.”

The Blue Devils enter the weekend outscoring their opponents by an average of 1.9 goals per game—the ninth-best mark in the nation. A versatile team with multiple offensive threats, Duke has used its depth to wear down opponents all season long, making opponents run across the field to defend different players.

The Blue Devils’ recent success on offense is due in part to the emergence of junior Heather Morris as one of the team’s most potent offensive weapons. The Pottstown, Pa., native has recorded seven goals and four assists on the season for a total of 18 points—the second most by a Duke player behind sophomore Ashley Kristen.

Morris notched two assists in the Blue Devils’ 2-0 victory against the Cardinals last Friday and tallied a goal against Longwood two days later. This weekend, Duke will look to both Chillano and Morris to continue to make key plays at key times, particularly if the Blue Devils fall behind and need a spark.

“Both [Chillano and Morris] are such skilled field hockey players,” Bustin said. “They both made a conscious decision to continue to improve their physical fitness, and I think we are seeing more of that as we get farther into this 2015 season…. If that’s the case, it’s a good thing for Duke field hockey because they are two of our smartest and more skillful players on the team.”

Against the Eagles (6-5, 0-3), the Blue Devils run into a matchup nightmare in the form of junior Emily McCoy. The Lancaster, Pa., native leads Boston College in goals with seven and has notched three assists on the year. Bustin’s squad will need to lock down on defense around the circle to prevent McCoy from gaining a clear angle on goal.

“[McCoy] is a great player,” Bustin said. “Fortunately we’ve been playing teams that have great players and we’re going to approach Boston College the same way. That means respecting her game, knowing where she is and being able to still trust our defensive structure.”

The Terriers (8-3) will provide a challenge for Duke all their own. They average 3.5 goals per game and place 55.9 percent of their shots on target. Boston University hosted the Eagles Sept. 11 and lost 2-1 in overtime.

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