For senior midfielder Kara Wilson and five other Blue Devils, Sunday’s match is not just “one more game.” It is the most special game.
Led by its six veterans, No. 22 Duke battles N.C. State on Senior Day Sunday at 1 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. The duel against the Wolfpack marks the last regular-season contest for the Blue Devils, who will look to defeat their Triangle foe in order to secure a home seeding in the NCAA tournament.
“Our grade in particular has faced a lot of adversity, especially in terms of injuries, so all of us being able to start together will be a very special moment for us,” Wilson said. “[These four years have been] an unbelievable experience both soccer-related and academically. Each season has been a journey of its own and I’m just really grateful that we’re at the point we are this season.”
Duke head coach Robbie Church said that the team’s six veterans—seniors Wilson and Courtney McDaniel, and redshirts Kelly McCann, Cassie Pecht, Sammie Thomas and Danielle Duhl—will be part of the starting lineup Sunday as a homage for their dedication to the program.
“It’s a special day,” Church said. “The seniors have given so much to our program both on the field and off the field. They’ve represented Duke University and our program with such a dignity and class. We hate to see them leave."
The Blue Devils (9-5-4, 3-3-3 in the ACC) have netted 29 goals this fall, with 10 of them coming from freshmen Kayla McCoy and Taylor Racioppi. Despite her 14-game scoreless drought, Racioppi leads the team in shot attempts with 69 and McCoy is third with 46.
But the two newcomers are not the only weapons in the Blue Devil arsenal. Redshirt sophomore Cassie Pecht, sophomore Ashton Miller and classmate Imani Dorsey have combined for 10 goals and eight feeds as well.
“The brilliant thing about soccer is that you’ve got 11 players on the field for your side,” Racioppi said. “If I’m not producing, somebody else is. That’s why I love this team. Everyone has each other’s back throughout the season. It’s about sharing the ball and working as a team. [The goal] is going to come at some point. [I’ve been] right on the edge twice, hitting the post.”
On the other side of the pitch, the Blue Devils have registered 10 shutouts—their most since 2011, when they played the NCAA championship. Sophomore goalkeeper E.J. Proctor has collected 59 saves this season and has allowed only 13 goals.
“Individually, I want to be remembered for working hard, being a consistent player and a consistent presence of the field as well as a leader off the field,” Wilson said. “In terms of what our class has brought [to the team,] [it] has done a really great job from a leadership perspective and I hope that we are remembered for that aspect.”
N.C. State (4-14, 0-9) has dropped all of its conference contests this season and has not won an ACC matchup since Oct. 31, 2013, when the Wolfpack beat Wake Forest 2-1. In its most recent game—a rescheduled matchup against top-ranked Virginia—N.C. State was dispatched 7-1 by the Cavaliers Wednesday in Raleigh.
The Wolfpack enter Sunday’s game averaging only 0.8 goals per contest and have conceded 39 goals, bringing up the rear in both categories in the ACC.
Despite the low offensive numbers, freshman Jackie Stengel will pose a threat for the Blue Devil defense. Stengel is N.C. State’s leading scorer with five goals, and the forward duo of Alexa Allen and Rachel Cox has registered three strikes and three assists.
Despite its struggles, the Wolfpack have played the Blue Devils tough in recent years. Duke has found the back of the net against the Wolfpack only twice in the last two seasons.
“If you go back and look over the records, Duke and N.C. State have always had very tight games,” Church said. “It’s a rivalry within a rivalry. They are one of the big four [squads] in North Carolina. They always play very well against us and [because they’re winless in the ACC,] this is their College Cup. They’re going to give us their best shot so we’ll get to make sure we give them our best shot.”
Correction: The original version of this story listed Abby Pyne as one of the Blue Devils being honored on Senior Day. Pyne is a redshirt freshman. The Chronicle regrets the error.
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