For a team that entered the season ranked No. 1 and remains a consensus Final Four pick, the first road trip of the season—a loss to an unranked team—was disappointing to say the least. 

Now, the Blue Devils will pack up for their second away game looking for a decidedly different result against a decidedly different opponent. 

After a bounce-back win against Richmond at home last week, No. 3 Duke goes back on the road to take on No. 6 Loyola (Md.) Saturday at 3 p.m. at Ridley Athletic Complex in Baltimore. The Blue Devils suffered their only loss of the season thus far two weeks ago at Pennsylvania and are looking to continue the momentum of their 14-4 drubbing of the Spiders last week as they kick off a three-game stretch away from Koskinen Stadium. 

“We were scared to play, we were scared to lose. The team hadn’t been in that situation yet. I think it was the burden of the No. 1 ranking was weighing heavily on the guys, and they didn’t compete for four quarters," Duke head coach John Danowski said. "It wasn’t so much on the road as it was the perception of what quote "should happen," which we all know in athletics is something you have to learn for yourself. You have to learn to compete every time out regardless of who your opponent is.”

One of the most important adjustments the Blue Devils (5-1) made after the Quakers knocked them out of the top spot in the rankings two weeks ago was in the faceoff circle. Duke won just 7-of-22 faceoffs in their lone loss this season, but responded by securing 12-of-21 against Richmond a week later. Although the Blue Devils have struggled in this facet of the game so far in 2018—posting just a .410 winning percentage in faceoffs—the Greyhounds are only slightly better at .443. 

Against a team like Loyola that features both a top-10 offense and defense, controlling the game from the opening whistle will be key for Duke on Saturday. The Blue Devils struggled on the road against the Quakers because they failed to command the ball for long stretches of the game, largely due to the faceoff difficulties. 

“We won some faceoffs [against Richmond]. We didn’t win faceoffs, very many, [against Penn]. When you’re playing less defense, you get less tired and it’s easier to stay on task,” Danowski said. “We have the ball for extended periods, we face off, we get it back, we don’t play defense as much.”

Keeping the ball out of the stick of Greyhound attackman Pat Spencer will be especially important Saturday. The junior from Davidsonville, Md., entered the season already third in school history in points, and on Sunday moved into sole possession of both the points and assists records for the program. But Spencer is far from the only threat on an offense that scores 13.6 goals per game—tied for third in the nation. 

Freshman Kevin Lindley has quickly emerged as another dangerous threat for Loyola (3-1), exploding for eight goals in the Greyhounds’ win against Holy Cross last Sunday, the most any Loyola player had scored in 17 years.  His 15 points are second on the team behind Spencer and just one ahead of senior Jay Drapeau’s 14.

“Defensively, we need to be aware of where [Spencer] is, but he makes all his teammates better, so we need to be aware of where his teammates are as well,” Danowski said. “While there’s a little emphasis toward him, it’s still about us defending their team. We’ve played them three times now, and fortunately we’ve beaten them twice with him on the field.”

The Blue Devils are not without scoring threats themselves, including their own freshman offensive phenom Joe Robertson. Robertson ranks 28th in the nation in goals per game and has contributed 22 points alongside star senior attackman Justin Guterding, who leads the nation with 3.8 goals per game. Duke’s No. 1 scoring offense will be the toughest challenge Loyola goalkeeper Jacob Stover has faced this season. Stover, like his Blue Devil counterpart Danny Fowler, has been a solid presence between the pipes this season, averaging more than seven saves per game. 

“The hope is we learned from [the Pennsylvania loss] and the hope is that we learned last week against Richmond, and that you have to show up each week and that you have to prepare, mentally, physically, strategically,” Danowski said. “But at the end of the day, we’re not going to know until 3 o’clock on Saturday.”