Duke has returned home and is ready to return to form.
The Blue Devils will host Richmond Saturday at 1 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. Duke is coming off its first loss of the season to Pennsylvania and is looking to avoid back-to-back losses for the first time since the 2015 season, when it lost three in a row in April.
“We are no longer number one,” Blue Devil head coach John Danowski said. “Not that we believed that anyway, but I think it is a blessing for this group. Let’s just forget about all that noise and let’s just play.”
The Spiders (2-2) bring a lot of familiarity to Durham, as head coach Dan Chemotti led Duke as a captain in his senior season in 2002. Last year, Duke edged Richmond 9-8. The Blue Devils scored three goals in a 51-second span to finish off the Spiders. In 2016, Richmond came into Koskinen and upset the Blue Devils in overtime. Although Chemotti’s squad is unranked this spring, the Spiders lost in the Southern Conference Championship Game last spring and bring immense returning talent into Durham this weekend.
“They do a great job,” Danowski said. “First of all, they beat us two years ago here in a mid-week game and then we beat them last year by a goal when we were down by three at the half. So they are going to be very deliberate on offense, but they are very slick. They’ve got terrific skills, they throw the ball inside a lot and they look inside to cutters. That possesses a challenge [for us] for sure.”
Richmond fell behind early to Notre Dame last weekend before scoring six unanswered goals in the third quarter to tie the game. The Fighting Irish stifled the comeback, but the younger Spiders showed fight. Redshirt senior attackman Mitch Goldberg and senior attackmen Ryan Lee and Teddy Hatfield lead Richmond's attack. The Spiders graduated 13 seniors, including their whole starting rope unit on the defensive side. With an inexperienced goalie, sophomore Blake Goodman, between the pipes, Notre Dame was able to exploit the Spiders’ young defense.
“[Richmond] will give you some nine-man ride, with the goalie coming out, applying some pressure in between the restraining lines,” Danowski said. “It’s interesting, it’s something we don’t see too often. They didn’t show it a lot against Notre Dame, but they have against us the last two years and we are preparing for it for sure.”
During the Blue Devils' four-game winning streak to start the season, the offense was humming along. Senior attackman Justin Guterding continued his torrid assault on the Duke record books in the first month of the season, with 17 goals and 19 assists. Graduate transfer Peter Conley and junior midfielder Brad Smith have also shown their offensive might in early close games, and highly-touted freshman midfielder Nakeie Montgomery has worked himself into the fold as well. The Dallas native scored the first two goals of his career last Saturday against Pennsylvania. He will look to continue his fast-paced play against the Spiders.
“You earn your spot in practice, and [Nakeie] has practiced really well,” Danowski said. “Coach [Matt] Danowski thought it was an opportunity for him to play this week, and he really responded. He took six shots and he was able to get his hands free to score twice. Even when he didn’t score, he was able to shoot and put pressure on the defense, so we were impressed with him overall. [Nakeie] will continue to get his shot this week.”
Duke (4-1) will look to bounce back against the Spiders before it leaves for a three-game road trip against Loyola, Towson and Cleveland State to close out spring break. Danowski will need to make sure his squad is ready to play after intermission—the Blue Devils were outscored 6-2 in the second half last week. Duke only recorded a .281 shooting percentage against the Quakers, but it still leads the nation in shooting percentage at .434.
The Blue Devils want to come out with sticks swinging against the Spiders. As history shows, they are always a tough matchup for Duke.
“You have to be ready, week after week,” Danowski said. “Coach Chemotti has a done a terrific job at Loyola, at St. Johns and now at Richmond. They will have a whole week to prepare for us.”
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