Following a bounce-back win against then-No. 15 James Madison, fourth-ranked Duke looks to maintain momentum in its first home games of the season this weekend.
The first of the two games will be played at 6 p.m. this Friday at Jack Katz Stadium against No. 11 Louisville. With just one day of rest in between, the Blue Devils will be back home at noon Sunday facing another tough opponent in Princeton, which sits at No. 15 in the poll.
“We were just able to talk about some of the critical moments, both in the UVA game and the James Madison game, and the things that we improved on," head coach Pam Bustin said in preparation for the weekend. "I think it’s how quickly can we get back to our style of play and our aggressiveness, how quickly can we as a team bring it back into the game when we’ve had moments of lulls?”
Duke will want to have its attacking style of play command the game Friday, as Louisville (4-2, 0-0 in the ACC) is a strong defensive opponent that has only allowed more than one goal once this season. With that being said, Duke’s offense has been hot as well and is led by junior forward Rose Tynan, who already has put up nine points in the first five games.
“The team has been working really hard as a unit and all the forwards are trying to work together and make a lot of movement to open space up for each other," Tynan said. "It’s just lucky that I’ve been getting some of the goals.”
Along with the strong offensive numbers Tynan and the team have put up this season, the Blue Devils (4-1, 0-1) have maintained a solid defense as well. The team has already earned three shutout victories and held its opponents to a combined five goals in the first five games. Bustin attributes the team’s success in this category to the fact that the Blue Devil defend as a unit, using all bodies on the field to stop the opponent’s attack.
“When we defend from the forward line through the midfield all the way to the back we’re able to sustain a good defensive front,” Bustin said.
This defensive system will need to be in full force when facing to stop the Cardinals’ powerful attack. Their balanced offense has a handful of players that have found the back of the cage multiple times already this year, including freshman standout Marisa Martin Pelegrina, a native of Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany, who has posted nine points in their first six games.
Once past Louisville, Duke will have to quickly catch its breath as it prepares for its second opponent of the weekend, Princeton. With the Tigers (1-3) off to a slow start this season, winning just one of their first four games, they will certainly be hungry to get back on track coming into Durham this weekend.
Despite Princeton's lackluster record thus far, all three of its losses have come against top-three teams. And its 11 straight Ivy League titles from 2005-15 and Final Four appearance last year reflect its potential.
Whether it’s Louisville or Princeton lined up on the other bench, Tynan and the rest of the Blue Devils will need to be ready to play come both Friday and Sunday.
“We’ve just been practicing, especially today, working really hard on the 50/50 ball and fighting for it in the circle, so we’ll be pushing each other this week against the attack and the defense," Tynan said. "Hopefully it comes for us this weekend.”
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