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Duke women's soccer ready to open ACC play against Syracuse

<p>Kayla McCoy scored Duke's lone goal last weekend and scored both of the Blue Devils' goals when they faced Syracuse in 2017.</p>

Kayla McCoy scored Duke's lone goal last weekend and scored both of the Blue Devils' goals when they faced Syracuse in 2017.

After going undefeated during their longest homestand of the year, the Blue Devils will look to continue momentum and find consistency as they head into ACC play. 

No. 13 Duke opens its conference slate on the road against Syracuse Sunday at 1 p.m. at SU Soccer Stadium in upstate New York. The reigning regular season ACC champions have struggled to put together two quality halves lately—in the Blue Devils' last match against Old Dominion, Duke came out firing early, striking on a Kayla McCoy goal in the third minute, but failed to convert another attempt for the remainder of the game. 

Duke looked sluggish in that matchup, the team's third in a week. 

“I think the game really highlighted that we needed rest. Not only physical rest, we needed mental rest,” head coach Robbie Church said. “We were much better in the second half— created a number of good opportunities in the second half, should have scored a couple more goals in the second half. As a coach, you just know your team and your group needs a couple days off. They just needed to refocus, and refocus on the ACC.” 

Getting a few days off due to the threat of Hurricane Florence, the Blue Devils headed out on the road early. Duke drove the first half of their trip on Thursday morning up to Gettysburg, Pa., and trained at Gettysburg College before heading to Syracuse Friday morning with hopes of making it to support the Blue Devils’ field hockey team in their match Friday evening against the Orange. 

The physical rest was especially important for Duke (6-1-1), as multiple Blue Devils went down in their match last weekend. McCoy took multiple hard hits, including one that caused her to be visited by a trainer before returning to play, and freshman Delaney Graham also fended off a trio of tackles that left her down on the field. 

Graham did not return for the rest of the first half, but came back in the game in the second.

“[Delaney]’s great. She banged off a couple of players but she came in and played in the second half and played very well. She has trained well too,” Church said. “She’s a tough girl. I wish we all played as hard as Delaney does.” 

During Duke’s six-match undefeated streak, the Blue Devils have outscored opponents, 11-2, with seven different players scoring. Redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Brooke Heinsohn also posted her fifth shutout of the season against the Monarchs. 

The last match also saw an impressive milestone for McCoy, as her game-winning goal moved her into the top 10 on Duke's all-time scoring list. Her next goal will tie her with recent graduate and All-American Imani Dorsey for sixth overall. 

It was McCoy’s offensive prowess that led the Blue Devils last season versus the Orange (3-5), as Duke shut out Syracuse, 2-0, on the road. McCoy logged both goals in the first thirty minutes of the game, and the Blue Devils held Syracuse to only three shots the rest of the way.  

The team that Duke will face Sunday, however, is much different than the one the Blue Devils faced last season. The Orange's 2017 senior class included four four-year starters, and its seven members combined to play in more than 430 career games.

Syracuse is now led primarily by sophomore Kate Hostage, who has eight points on the season and has tallied four goals for the Orange. Junior forward Sydney Brackett has also notched a goal and two assists for Syracuse. 

“Yes, we’re looking at Syracuse and we have looked at Syracuse a lot, but we’re really focusing on ourselves,” Church said. “This game came at a really good time…it was nice to get away and get some rest before this one.” 

The Orange are coming off three straight losses, one to the likes of No. 11 Penn State, and the other two to Kent State and in-state foe Colgate. Thus far, Syracuse has been outshot by opponents 118-78 in 2018.  

“The main reason athletes come to Duke is for the academics but the second reason is to play in the ACC,” Church said. “When ACC time starts, it’s really special—to have the opportunity to play in this conference, coach in this conference, you’re always playing up against some of the best players in the country. As the reigning ACC regular season champions, we’re excited to see how we can do in the ACC this year.” 

After playing the Orange, the Blue Devils with head back down south to take on Miami Thursday evening. 

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