After finally dispatching an Air Force team last weekend that had come away with upset victories in its previous two trips to Duke, the Blue Devils are looking to make sure history doesn’t reverse itself again when they host another familiar foe in a midweek tilt in Durham.

No. 1 Duke will host High Point Thursday at Koskinen Stadium at 8 p.m., welcoming its in-state opponent to Durham for the third straight year. The Blue Devils, who have never lost to the Panthers in four contests, are coming off a statement 18-4 victory against the Falcons last weekend and are looking to solidify their place atop college lacrosse with a matchup against No. 4 Denver looming next week.

One game into the 2018 season, Duke’s strengths are already clear. The Blue Devils feature arguably the best player in the country on attack, senior Justin Guterding, return one of the top defenses in the nation and have a strong anchor in goal in senior Danny Fowler. Each of those strengths was on display against the Falcons last week, as Guterding notched 10 points and the defense allowed just 11 shots in the first half for Duke’s largest victory in seven years. 

Unlike the Blue Devils, High Point (0-0) will not feature most of its core from a season ago Thursday in its season opener. The Panthers, who finished fifth in the Southern Conference in 2017 and were picked to finish there again this season, are without Michael LeClair and Harrison, their leading scorers from last year. In their place, seniors Connor Robinson and Jason Ashwood will likely provide the bulk of the offense for a team that scored just under nine goals per game last year. In comparison, Duke (1-0) returns nearly all of an offense that averaged just more than 13 goals per game. 

Between the pipes, the Panthers will have more consistency with the return of junior goalkeeper Tim Troutner Jr., who finished third in the nation last year in saves per game with 12.5. Despite his high save totals, Troutner finished 2017 with a .530 save percentage but a goals against average of just 11.2, the latter as much a product of the Panthers’ defense as his own performance. Troutner will have his hands full with Guterding and a pair of underclassmen—sophomore Joey Manown and freshman Joe Robertson—leading the attack for the Blue Devils. 

Starting in goal across from Troutner will be Fowler, whose presence in goal has been a constant for the past two years in Durham. Fowler made five saves and allowed just one goal in Duke’s season opener, and is looking to improve on his career-best 8.8 goals against average and .519 save percentage he posted in 2017 in his final season anchoring the defense in Durham. 

The longpoles starting on defense for the Blue Devils—JT Giles-Harris, Cade Van Raaphorst and Kevin McDonough—form an imposing defense in front of one of the top goalies in the ACC. Giles-Harris—brother of Duke football linebacker Joe Giles-Harris—and Van Raaphorst were both starters last season, while McDonough, a fifth-year senior transfer from Pennsylvania, brings additional considerable experience to a starting core that allowed just 8.4 goals per game last season. 

Perhaps most importantly for the future of the program, this year’s Blue Devil squad features six sophomores who played in every game in their freshmen campaigns and will be called upon to make significant contributions. Giles-Harris and Manown will be the most prominent as the two returning starters in the group, but against High Point, the other sophomores will get a chance to make their presence felt as well. 

After Thursday night's matchup, the Blue Devils will have a quick turnaround before facing Jacksonville Saturday afternoon at 1.