The Blue Devils opened preseason practice during the morning of Aug 3. A few hours later and approximately 4,700 miles away, their teammate Rebecca Quinn showed off her own skills in her Olympic debut.
Duke has followed the Toronto native's performances with the Canadian national team throughout the preseason. A senior defender with the Blue Devils, Quinn has certainly given them good reason to pay close attention.
The All-ACC defender has played in each of Canada's four Olympic wins, starting two matches and posting an assist on a free kick from midfield in a 2-1 group-stage win against Germany. Canada will take on Germany again in the semifinals Tuesday at 3 p.m. as it looks to claim an Olympic medal.
“Everybody’s been watching,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “We’ve seen all the games, we’ve caught everything we could, we’ve read about it. We’re just really proud of what she’s done.”
Quinn took the spring semester of 2015 off to train with the national team, only to be the last player cut before Canada hosted the 2015 World Cup. But the versatile 5-foot-9 midfielder stayed motivated, playing in the Pan American Games that summer, earning All-ACC honors last fall, taking the spring semester off again in 2016 and making the Olympic roster in June.
When starting defender Shelina Zadorsky received a red card just 23 minutes into Canada's first game against Australia, Quinn came on to help her team preserve a shutout. Fourteen minutes after the red card, she made a goal-saving tackle, one of many highlights the veteran has collected in her first Olympics.
Quinn also helped Canada's defense preserve a 1-0 lead in the quarterfinals against France.
“It’s great for her, it’s great for us,” said Blue Devil assistant coach Carla Overbeck, a captain for the U.S. team that won gold in the 1996 Olympics. “How the pace of the international game is played [helps her], the pace at which they play, just her experience."
Quinn's teammates have been in touch with her during the Games, and they also reached out to her for her birthday last Thursday. Before Quinn's first game of the Olympics, sophomore Anna Munro—the only other Canadian on the team—publicly wished her teammate luck.
But the video underscored a humorous source of division among a closely-knit team. When Munro said, "We're cheering for Canada," the laughs she received showed a hint of friendly hesitation from Quinn's American teammates.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Several, including fellow preseason first-team All-ACC performers Toni Payne and Christina Gibbons, have competed internationally for the U.S. at the U20 level and on younger teams.
Sweden defeated the U.S. Friday in a major quarterfinal upset, eliminating the chance that the U.S. and Canada could meet in the gold medal game. Before that result, when asked who they would root for if the U.S. and Canada met, players and coaches hinted at the difference between their admiration for Quinn—who will return to the team after the Olympics—and desire for Canada to go all the way.
“Obviously I want Rebecca to do well,” Overbeck said. “But I want our team to win,” referring to the U.S.
“I’m definitely rooting for the U.S,” Payne said. “But I’m also going to be rooting for my best friend Rebecca to play her best.”
Church was more diplomatic.
"I’ll hold that until we get to that,” he said. “Come back at me if it gets to that.”
Thanks to Sweden, the hypothetical will remain just that.
As the Blue Devils begin their own journey for a return trip to the national championship game with a season-opening game Friday at 5 p.m. against Wofford, they could simultaneously be rooting for Quinn if Canada can beat Germany one more time. The gold medal match is scheduled for Friday at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s actually kind of awesome,” Munro said. “Everyone’s cheering for Canada, obviously second, but it’s still kind of fun having everyone on my side for once."
Hank Tucker contributed reporting.