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The Chronicle's guide to Duke's 2017 fall sports teams

As part of The Chronicle's annual fall sports preview, our beat writers broke down each of Duke's five fall sports teams. Their thoughts and predictions can be found below.

Volleyball

The Scoop:

After failing for the second straight year to reach the NCAA tournament last fall, the Blue Devils hope to make it back to the big stage this season and move up the ACC standings. To do that, head coach Jolene Nagel’s team needs to replace the key players it lost in the offseason in graduates Jordan Tucker and Sasha Karelov and transfer Cindy Marina.

Key Players 

Middle blocker Leah Meyer: Meyer was named first team All-ACC last season and is the Blue Devils’ only preseason All-ACC selection this fall. The junior was second on the team in hitting percentage last year, posting double-digit kills 19 times.

Outside hitter Samantha Amos: As a freshman last season, Amos made an immediate impact and finished third on the team in kills per set behind veterans Tucker and Meyer.

Libero/defensive specialist Nicole Elattrache: Now a senior co-captain, Elattrache will have to provide some consistency as she becomes a regular starter for the first time of her career. Elattrache picked up double-digit digs in 14 matches last season and posted a .966 clip on service returns without errors.

Games to Watch

Oct. 6 at No. 16 North Carolina; Oct. 15 vs. No. 15 Florida State; Oct. 27 at Georgia Tech; Nov. 12 at Pittsburgh

Prediction

Fifth in ACC, NCAA tournament first round

-Emily Davis

Men's soccer

The Scoop 

After a disappointing end to a season that started with promise and a talented graduate-student goalkeeper, the Blue Devils hope that a new and experienced freshman goalie can fill the hole left by their 2016 MVP and help them to their first NCAA tournament berth since 2011. With a new 3-4-3 formation and a pair of attacking veterans in Brian White and Cameron Moseley, Duke is off to a 2-0 start to the regular season.

Key Players

Goalkeeper Will Pulisic: The freshman newcomer is no stranger to high-level play—he was part of the U.S. U17 and U19 National Teams and competed with the Borussia Dortmund U19 squad during a gap year before enrolling at Duke. Pulisic recorded shutouts in the first two matches of the fall.

Defender Carter Manley: A starter in all 17 games in the 2016 season, the senior was voted the team’s co-Most Valuable Defensive Player in 2016. Manley has picked up where he left off and was named to the All-Tournament team last weekend at the John Rennie Nike Invitational, suggesting he is a leader for the Blue Devil defense that has been absent in the past.

Midfielder Suniel Veerakone: As an ACC All-Freshman selection in 2016, Veerakone led all rookies on the team in scoring with three goals to go along with five assists. The midfielder will hope to build on his success as one of the league’s top underclassmen.

Games to Watch

Sept. 16 at No. 3 North Carolina; Sept. 22 at No. 8 Syracuse; Sept. 30 vs. No. 11 Louisville; Oct. 13 vs. No. 5 Clemson

Prediction 

Sixth in the ACC, NCAA tournament second round

—Liz Finny

Women's soccer

The Scoop 

Duke can say for the second time in as many years that it returns almost all of its starters—last year it returned 10, and this year it will be back with all but Christina Gibbons and Lizzy Raben. The Blue Devils never reached their national-championship potential last year, but with Kayla McCoy, Rebecca Quinn and Taylor Racioppi back from season-ending injuries, this year’s team may resemble the 2015 national runner-up team even more than last year’s so long as it can stay healthy. Expect the offense to be improved from last season, when Duke struggled finishing near the net, and the defense to be slightly less stringent.

Key Players

Forward Imani Dorsey: The senior has brought her A-game so far this year, with three scores and an assist through four games and a point in each contest. Her speed is key to winning breakaways, and her shot is powerful enough to intimidate any goalkeeper in the country.

Midfielder Taylor Racioppi: The junior struggled last year before her season-ending lower-leg injury, as she totaled just two goals and two assists in her last 10 games of 2016. But the potential for Racioppi is there—she is the former No. 2 recruit in the country, and she scored seven goals and added six assists as a freshman.

Defender Schuyler DeBree: The defense has looked shaky so far, and without Raben, DeBree will need to anchor the back four, which she has the experience and talent to do.

Prediction 

Third in ACC, NCAA quarterfinals

—Jack Dolgin

Field hockey

The Scoop

After a 2016 campaign that saw the Blue Devils notch their first regular-season ACC championship and spend multiple weeks atop the national rankings, an NCAA quarterfinal loss to eventual champion Delaware will act as motivation as preseason No. 2 Duke chases its first national title. The Blue Devils lost two of their top three leaders in points from last season, but still return a strong core.  

Key Players 

Center back Alyssa Chillano: In addition to being one of the team’s most tenacious defenders and a senior captain, Chillano packs an offensive punch—she led the Blue Devils in both goals and points last season.

Forward Ashley Kristen: Losing attackers Aisling Naughton and Heather Morris to graduation ensures that Kristen, who tallied 21 points last season, will play a larger role up front in the Blue Devil offense. It will be important for Duke to maintain its offensive prowess and aim to replicate last season’s 3.4 goals per game average. 

Goalkeeper Sammi Steele: Steele performed admirably last season, starting every game for the Blue Devils after sitting out for a year behind All-American Lauren Blazing. It will be crucial to the season’s success for the Eagleville, Pa., native to avoid a sophomore slump.

Games to Watch 

Sept. 1 vs. No. 6 Maryland, Sept. 15 vs. No. 9 Louisville, Oct. 7 vs. No. 5 Syracuse, Oct. 20 at No. 1 North Carolina

Prediction 

Second in ACC, NCAA tournament runner-up

-Alex Sanfilippo

Cross Country

The Scoop 

The Blue Devils will look to improve on both the men’s and women’s side with an emphasis on building depth. Head coach Norm Ogilvie brings in five new distance runners in one of his strongest recruiting classes, while women’s coach Rhonda Riley will have the opportunity to continue shaping the program in her second year at the helm.

Key Players 

Sophia Parvizi-Wayne: After finishing 15th in the ACC Cross Country Championships, Parvizi-Wayne was unable to finish the 6,000-meter race at the NCAA Southeast Regional a year ago due to back spasms. The sophomore enters this season as Duke’s top runner and has a chance to qualify for NCAAs if she can make strides on her freshman year.

Liz Lansing & Olivia Gwynn: The junior captains will play a major role for a young Blue Devil team. With a couple years of experience under their belt, the duo should be instrumental to paving the road for Duke’s six incoming freshmen.

Races to Watch 

Bull City Classic Sept. 1, ECU Pirates Invite Oct. 13

Prediction

Women: 8th in the ACC

Men: 10th in the ACC

-Sameer Pandhare

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