Despite playing on opposite thirds of the pitch, attacker Imani Dorsey and goalkeeper E.J. Proctor will share something in common Friday evening—they will look to show the Dukes that there is only one Duke.
Dorsey and Proctor are two of the 14 Blue Devil underclassmen who will get their first taste of NCAA tournament action as third-seeded Duke battles James Madison Friday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. The Blue Devils’ return to the national stage after being left out of the postseason in 2014 marks their first matchup against the Dukes in program history.
“I’m really excited and, of course, there are nerves there too but I’m just approaching it like another game,” Dorsey said. “I’m really confident in the way we have been playing and what we can do. Getting at JMU from the start and showing them that this is a game that they’re not going to win right from the opening whistle is going to be important.”
Duke (10-5-4) enters Friday’s contest averaging 1.8 goals per game, and its attack relies heavily on those underclassmen. Six of them have netted 24 of the team’s 34 goals this fall, with Dorsey and classmate Ashton Miller combining for nine and freshmen Kayla McCoy and Taylor Racioppi scoring 11 more. The freshmen and sophomores have also delivered 18 of the squad’s 31 assists.
“It just adds to the excitement knowing that we get to be home for the first game,” Proctor said. “Especially playing on a Friday night, [we will] hopefully get a good fan base, [which] makes it even sweeter.”
In the Blue Devils’ last regular-season duel—a lopsided 5-0 victory against N.C. State Nov. 1—Dorsey, Miller and Racioppi scored a goal apiece and another freshman, defender Chelsea Burns, added two strikes—her first two goals wearing a Duke uniform.
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Defensively, the Blue Devils allowed only 13 regular-season goals and held 11 opponents scoreless. Proctor has shined throughout the fall, posting eight solo shutouts and pulling off 60 saves.
“Overall, we’re a very good defensive team,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “[But] the main thing for us now is the ability to score goals. I think that we’re on an upswing on attacking. I like the mentality and aggressiveness of our attacking players. I like our mindset and I love seeing how hungry they are.”
But James Madison (14-6-2) will give the Blue Devils a run for their money. The Dukes captured the Colonial Athletic Association title Sunday after beating William & Mary 3-2.
The Blue Devil defense will have to pay particular attention to James Madison’s Ashley Herndon, as the junior forward leads the Dukes’ offense with 14 of the team’s 32 goals. Herndon is joined by weapons in the midfield in junior Allie Bunner and senior Kelly Kerrigan, who have combined for eight goals and 10 feeds.
On the other end of the pitch, James Madison has posted 10 shutouts this season and goalkeeper Ellen Forrest has made 108 saves in 22 matches.
The Dukes did not play as difficult a schedule as the Blue Devils, facing off against just two ranked teams. James Madison lost both contests—a 4-3 decision against then-No. 23 Georgetown Aug. 21 and 2-1 against then-No. 9 Virginia Tech one week later. Duke finished the season 2-3-2 against squads inside the top 25.
“It’s definitely important to get this first win,” Dorsey said. “It’ll calm the nerves going into such a huge tournament like this. We have the confidence because we have played through the season together and we’ve grown together. That first win will definitely reassure us.”
A win Friday night would send the Blue Devils on to the second round Nov. 20, where they would face either South Florida or Florida Gulf Coast.