When the Blue Devils dropped a surprising one-goal contest to Elon Feb. 25, they rebounded by doubling up then-No. 16 Pennsylvania a few days later, notching their first win of the season against a ranked opponent.
After another one-goal loss at home, Duke will try to do the same thing again come Saturday afternoon.
The No. 20 Blue Devils welcome No. 4 Louisville comes to Koskinen Stadium Saturday at 1 p.m. Duke opened up its conference slate with a 13-4 demolition of Virginia Tech on the road last week, but suffered a disappointing 10-9 loss in a nonconference midweek game against Georgetown Wednesday afternoon.
“I think sometimes to have that quick turnaround can actually be a great way for us to move past a not-so-great performance,” Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “We have responded, so I think we’re excited to get back out on the field Saturday, do some good prep [Friday] and be ready to go Saturday.”
Kimel’s squad was down by five scores in Wednesday’s loss to the Hoyas, but went on a 4-0 run late in the game in a last-ditch comeback attempt. Sophomore Kyra Harney recorded two of those late Blue Devil goals and finished the game with her fourth hat trick of the season.
The Bay Shore, N.Y., native paces Duke (4-4, 1-0 in the ACC) with 22 goals and has stepped up to ignite a unit that at times has struggled to put together consistent offense.
“I think Kyra is hands down one of our toughest kids. She grinds in games,” Kimel said. “When things are tough, she plays hard, she doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. She’s a really consistent piece of our offense right now.”
The Blue Devils will rely on Harney to continue to create on the attack in the matchup with the Cardinals (7-0, 2-0). The two teams squared off twice last season—with Duke claiming the victory in each contest—but Louisville return its core of starters. where the Blue Devils graduated 70 percent of their offense. The Cardinals have outscored opponents 73-38 thus far in the young season, highlighted by the trio of Kaylin Morissette, Cortnee Daley and Hannah Koloski—who have each recorded 17 scores.
“The good thing is they have a lot of people back…so for our defense we’re very familiar with what they’re trying to do and what they’re trying to create,” Kimel said. “Morissette is probably leading the country in draws right now for them. So much momentum goes through her and we need to make sure we do a good job of limiting her in the draw circle and not giving them those fast break opportunities.”
Perhaps the most interesting matchup of the game will come in between the pipes. Duke goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea became just the third Blue Devil in program history to reach 500 career saves in the loss against Georgetown. The senior currently leads active NCAA goalkeepers in career saves and places third in career ground balls. The Beverly, Mass., native is also averaging a conference-high 9.1 saves per game through the first eight games of the season.
But right beneath Duryea’s name on that list is Cardinal sophomore goalkeeper Brittany Read, who is stopping 8.8 shots per contest. Read also bests the conference in goals against the average, allowing only 5.4.
“A difference for [Louisville] this year is that they have a different goalie—she’s great. Her save percentage is off the charts right now,” Kimel said. “That’s also a testament to their defense. Their defense is throwing different things at their opponents, making it easy for her to make saves. She’s very aggressive.”
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The Duke offense, led by Harney and bolstered by seniors Kelci Smesko and Maddy Acton and freshman Olivia Jenner, will attempt to pressure Read and the Cardinal defense early—something they failed to do against Georgetown.
The inability to capitalize on winning draw controls and allowing scores off turnovers were the Blue Devils' Achilles heel against the Hoyas and will be a focus in practice Thursday and Friday. Duke heads into Saturday’s game with a chance to remain perfect in conference play and hand Louisville its first loss of the season.
“Being in the ACC, there’s pride in being a part of that conference,” Acton said. “ACC games are great. They’re big, but every game’s big for us, especially as a young team.”