The Blue Devils flashed their potential by outscoring then-No 18 North Carolina 11-2 after a slow start en route to their first ACC win Sunday, with all facets coming together for a young but extremely talented group in Chapel Hill.

But every week in league play brings a new test, and Duke cannot afford to rest on its laurels with another title contender coming to Durham.

The No. 10 Blue Devils will host No. 4 Notre Dame Saturday at noon at Koskinen Stadium hoping to take control of second place in the conference standings. No. 2 Syracuse is in control having already bested both Duke and the Fighting Irish in one-goal thrillers to move to 3-0 in ACC play, and with the Blue Devils and Notre Dame—which was ranked No. 1 before its loss to the Orange—both at 1-1 against league opponents, Saturday’s top-10 tilt could have major postseason implications. With only five teams in the ACC, both squads only have one more league matchup after they rekindle their rivalry.

The Fighting Irish were also ranked No. 4 in the last bout between the two teams, a 10-9 overtime victory for Duke in the semifinals of the ACC tournament. Many of the Blue Devils who tallied goals in that contest, including the dynamic duo of Justin Guterding and Jack Bruckner, return for what should be another exciting matchup with Notre Dame boasting one of the best defenses in the nation.

“You go to Notre Dame, just like Duke, you expect to be excellent at whatever you do,” Duke head coach John Danowski said. “Whether it’s on the football field or basketball court, they expect to be great. They’ve got a great coaching staff, great tradition, and they’ve got great players. They have guys who have been in Final Fours, championships. They’ve played in big games and have been successful in them—they have a lot of confidence and chemistry. They were one goal away from being the number one team in the country.”

Saturday’s matchup pits the ACC’s two best offensive weapons against its strongest netminder. Guterding and Bruckner are the ACC’s two best goal scorers and are just shy of combining for 100 points on the season after only 11 games. Standing in their way, however, is senior Shane Doss. Despite his slight frame of 167 pounds—well below the average for goalies—the Glen Ridge, N.J., native boasts a 32-12 career record, in addition to sitting atop the ACC this year in both save percentage and goals against average at just 8.4.

After starting slow against the Tar Heels, it will be crucial for the Blue Devils (8-3, 1-1) to gain momentum early. The Fighting Irish (5-2, 1-1) have outscored opponents 21-13 in the first quarter, their largest goal-differential in any quarter, and have given Duke’s high-powered offense fits in the past.

“In the second half on both ends of the ball, we played much better,” Danowski said of the North Carolina game. “We need guys understanding their roles, attention to detail, all the basic coaching clichés, but they’re true. Offensively and defensively, we need to be on it at 12:01, right at the first faceoff.”

Lacrosse’s version of special teams will play a pivotal role in differentiating the two sides this weekend, with Notre Dame boasting its own dangerous offensive trio with attackmen Ryder Garnsey and Mikey Wynne and midfielder Sergio Perkovic having combined for 40 goals and 22 assists this season. However, Duke has the potential to exploit Notre Dame’s biggest weaknesses—faceoffs and man-down defense—to keep the ball away from the best Fighting Irish scorers.

Notre Dame ranks last in faceoff percentage in the conference, a reassuring sign after senior Kyle Rowe’s dominant performance against the Tar Heels—the ACC’s strongest faceoff team. Despite a 2-for-6 start, Rowe finished the evening 17-for-24, capably outmatching fellow senior Stephen Kelly. The Vienna, Va., native will battle yet another senior in Fighting Irish faceoff specialist P.J. Finley Saturday.

Man-down defense has also plagued Notre Dame throughout the season despite the team’s early-season success. The Fighting Irish have allowed nine goals on 16 opportunities to opposing teams, and have gone just 9-for-27 when they have an extra player on offense. Man-up chances were a relative non-factor against North Carolina—the teams combined for just four penalties—but were a big reason the Blue Devils fell at Syracuse March 25, making them a potential area to watch if the league’s least-penalized team in Notre Dame slips up.

“Possession of the ball is really important,” Danowski said. “The faceoff game and wing play will be important. Ground balls, chasing and hunting ground balls and picking them up—just like rebounding in hoops—is going to be huge. Offensively, we’re going to need to be patient, yet aggressive, which is easier said than done. Defensively, we need to win our individual battles and play well as a group, communicate well and help the goalie see.”

With Danowski’s team next hosting No. 12 Virginia before taking on Marquette and hosting the ACC tournament, Duke could establish its status as a potential national title contender with more strong play leading up to the postseason. But inconsistency has marked the Blue Devils’ efforts against top competition this season, and they enter another top-five test hoping to put together a full 60 minutes.

“I hate to keep harping on the youth concept,” Danowski said. “But these big games, Sunday night in Chapel Hill, there’s no substitute for that experience. I thought we grew as a result from the victory.”

Riley Pfaff contributed reporting.