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ACC tournament seeding on the line for Duke men's soccer in regular season finale at Virginia

<p>Rookie Brandon Williamson was named National Player of the Week after scoring two goals in Duke's upset of then-No. 4 Notre Dame.&nbsp;</p>

Rookie Brandon Williamson was named National Player of the Week after scoring two goals in Duke's upset of then-No. 4 Notre Dame. 

After earning just three victories from the beginning of September to the middle of October, Duke has rattled off three consecutive wins. 

Now the Blue Devils have a chance to capture their third win against a ranked opponent this season and secure a home game in the postseason. 

Duke will conclude its regular-season campaign against No. 17 Virginia Friday at 7 p.m. at Klockner Stadium in Charlottesville, Va. Although the Cavaliers have lost only one of their last 11 games, the Blue Devils—who sit tied for ninth in the ACC—can vault past Virginia into third place of the Coastal Division with a win. If Duke wins and moves into the ACC's top eight after Friday's contest, the Blue Devils will host a first-round game when the conference tournament begins Wednesday.

"It's a great opportunity for us to go into Virginia and continue the progress," Duke head coach John Kerr told after Tuesday's win. "I really like this team going into the late stages of the season.... They deserve it, they've earned it and we've just got to keep it rolling."

One of the Blue Devils' greatest strengths has been graduate student goalkeeper Robert Moewes. The Dortmund, Germany, native pitched a shutout for the second time this season in Tuesday's win against Elon, making four saves to bolster his 3.9 saves per game average—good for third-best in the conference.

A crucial stop by Moewes also led to Duke's only tally of the game when junior midfielder Brian White registered his third game-winning goal of the season on a counterattack in overtime.  

 "We hadn't had a shutout for the longest time and it was important we addressed it," Kerr said. "[A shutout] always gives us a chance to win."

Moewes' play has helped make up for injuries and inconsistent play along the backline. Kerr has relied heavily on first-year players Max Moser and CC Uche—who have each started at least 14 of Duke's 15 contests. But the Blue Devils (7-6-2, 2-4-1 in the ACC) have received a boost with the return of junior defender Kevon Black, who sat out three games earlier this month with a back injury. 

Moewes and company will face a difficult test Friday against an efficient Cavalier attack that averages 1.7 goals on less than 11 shots per game. Virginia (8-2-5, 2-2-3) relies on ball movement and passing to generate attacks—19 of their 25 goals have come off assists. 

The Cavalier offense is led by sophomore forwards Edward Opoku and Wesley Wade, who have combined for 11 goals. Redshirt junior midfielder Pablo Aguilar also has 10 points for Virginia—which has wins against then-No. 4 North Carolina and then-No. 2 Notre Dame. 

But keeping the Cavaliers off the scoreboard might not be necessary for a Duke offense that has recently showed improvement. The Blue Devils have scored six goals in their last three games combined after recording no more than one goal in each of their first three contests in October. 

Freshman midfielder Brandon Williamson has been a major catalyst for Duke's offensive success. The Gainesville, Va., native was named ACC Offensive Player of the Week after his two tallies pushed the Blue Devils past the Fighting Irish last Friday. The 5-foot-10 midfielder continued his hot streak Tuesday, setting up White's goal. 

But like Duke, Virginia's biggest weapon stands in net. Junior goalkeeper Jeff Caldwell ranks second in the conference in saves, helping the Cavaliers post the 35th-best team save percentage in the nation. 

The Blue Devils have not topped Virginia since 2009, but Duke will need to stay hot and break that streak Friday night in order to keep its NCAA Tournament aspirations alive heading into the postseason. 

"[A win] gives us a lot of confidence, a lot of belief, and that's what we've been searching for the last half of the season," Kerr said.

Mitchell Gladstone | Sports Managing Editor

Twitter: @mpgladstone13

A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak." 


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