Duke’s 2014 season came to an end on Halloween with a 2-0 loss against Florida State, keeping the Blue Devils on the outside looking in at the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Danielle Duhl and her teammates promised to be back in the NCAA tournament in 2015—a promised that was fulfilled Monday afternoon.
No. 21 Duke earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament as an at-large invitee thanks to its 10-5-4 regular-season record, which included a historic 1-0 win against Tobacco Road rival and then-No. 7 North Carolina Oct. 16. The Blue Devils finished 4-3-3 in the ACC, which received the most selections to the tournament with eight.
The Blue Devils will host James Madison Friday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium in the first round of the NCAA tournament. If the Blue Devils defeat the Dukes, they will battle the winner of the matchup between South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast one week later.
The Blue Devils gathered in the Murray Athletic Building to watch the selection show and were relieved to see their name appear onscreen.
“When the brackets [for the NCAA tournament] came out last year and we saw that it wasn’t our year and that we were done, it was a very bitter ending,” Duhl said. “A lot of us were pretty upset and angry. At that point, it was our mission to say ‘Okay, how do we get to the point where we are so close as a team that we can come in and we can just be a sponge to everything and work hard?’”
One year later, the Blue Devil defense has produced dramatically different results after the unit struggled throughout the disappointing 2014 campaign. Duke returns to the postseason with 11 shutouts on the season and just 0.7 goals per contest—the 26th best mark in the country.
Duke’s 14 underclassmen will get their first taste of the national tournament, as Duhl and other veterans who participated in the 2013 edition will look to guide the youngest Blue Devils with their experience in the national spotlight.
“We’re excited to be back,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “It was such a disappoinment last year this time to sit in this room. We knew that we were not in [the NCAA tournament] because we knew that [our RPI] was below .500. But not only are we back, we’re back [as] the third seed. What a great accomplishment for these young ladies, for all the work they did in the regular season—from being completely out of the tournament to be back as a third-seeded team. It’s a testament of their hard work.”