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Duke women's soccer looks to extend win-streak to five in final home set

<p>Kat McDonald is one of four seniors who will be playing their final matches in Koskinen this coming week.</p>

Kat McDonald is one of four seniors who will be playing their final matches in Koskinen this coming week.

After a thrilling win against Clemson that drew national attention, the Blue Devils look to build on their three-game win streak during their final two home games of the 2018 regular season.

No. 10 Duke will face Louisville Thursday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium before playing its last conference home game against No. 11 Boston College Sunday at 1 p.m. If the Blue Devils can capitalize on the momentum they have gathered during their recent stretch and sweep the weekend set, Duke will put itself in contention for home field advantage during both the ACC and NCAA tournaments. 

After a small rough patch midway through the season, the Blue Devils appear to have found their stride of late.

“I’m very proud of how we fought over the last three games,” head coach Robbie Church said. “This team sometimes seems to be better when we’re backed up against the wall. These are two of the toughest teams we’ve played all year, both of them have done really well, so they’re very important games for us.”

The Thursday game will be the first meeting between Duke (11-2-2, 5-1-1 in the ACC) and Louisville since the Blue Devils bested the Cardinals in a 3-2 double-overtime finish in September of last year, snapping a streak of four consecutive scoreless ties between the teams. Louisville (11-3-0, 5-2-0) is coming off an impressive 2-0 victory against Wake Forest on the road. The Cardinals were able to control possession and outshoot their opponent in the win. 

Junior forward Brooklynn Rivers, who was named Top Drawer Soccer Player of the Week back in September, currently leads the team in assists and is tied with Maisie Whitsett as the teams' leading scorer. The duo can be expected to test the Blue Devil defense Thursday.

After facing Louisville, Duke will have two days to prepare to host the eleventh-ranked Eagles (13-1-1, 5-1-1)  for what is sure to be an exciting and intense matchup. Boston College is coming off a hard fought 1-1 double-overtime draw against Miami, with the Eagles' only goal coming from sophomore Sam Coffey. In order to secure a victory on Sunday, Duke must find a way to contain Coffey, who is currently fourth in the nation in scoring, recording 10 goals and 11 assists for the season.

Sunday's match is also Duke’s Senior Day, honoring the collegiate careers and accomplishments of Chelsea Burns, Taylor Racioppi, Kat McDonald and Kayla McCoy as they all play their last conference home games in the blue and white. Duke’s seniors have been powerful leaders in their final seasons, and have been doing so in style.

“It’s one of the most decorated classes, if not the decorated class in the history of the school, probably one of the most decorated classes in NCAA women’s soccer. It’s a final four as a freshman, it’s a final eight as a sophomore, it’s a final four as a junior so it’s an incredible run they’ve had on the field”, Church said of his seniors’ impressive Duke careers.

McCoy has recorded 35 goals over her career—the senior has scored at least one in each of the Blue Devils last five games—and is currently tied for fourth on Duke's all-time scoring list. Racioppi landed a spot in ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10 this past week with a beautiful, curving game winner in Duke’s recent game against Clemson. McDonald has also had a great season, kickstarting the comeback in the Clemson game with an early second half goal and scoring a game winner of her own in Duke’s tight matchup against Wake Forest.

Burns earned praise from head coach Robbie Church for stepping up in the same Wake Forest game when defender Taylor Mitchell went down with a leg injury.

While senior nostalgia may be beginning to set in as the regular season draws to a close, Church makes it clear that the team’s work is nowhere near finished.

 “We still have a lot of improvement to do. This team will get better and better,” Church said, “We want more for them and we want more for ourselves”.

Following this weekend's set, the Blue Devils will close out the regular season on the road against Notre Dame Oct. 25.