After an early exit in the ACC tournament, the Blue Devils will look to rebound with a strong start to the NCAA tournament.

Fourth-seeded Duke will begin this year’s tournament against Rutgers in the round of 64 at Koskinen Stadium Friday at 7 p.m. The team is looking to bounce back from a loss in the ACC quarterfinals, where the Blue Devils were upset by Florida State in a 1-0 defeat.

Against the Seminoles, Duke struggled to produce much offensively. The team got off to a quick start with two early shots at goal but were unable to convert. After that early spell, though, the Blue Devils managed only three shots over the next 75 minutes, reflective of the incredible defensive pressure Florida State was able to apply. In the 23rd minute, the Seminoles pulled ahead after a header from Kristen McFarland, giving them the lead for good. For the rest of the match, Florida State’s defense continued to deny Duke any good scoring chances as the Seminoles closed out the game. Florida State would eventually win the ACC tournament.

Now, Duke has its sights firmly set on the NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils have performed well in their past few tournament runs, reaching the finals in 2015, the quarterfinals in 2016 and the semifinals in 2017. Five Duke players also earned All-ACC honors this season. Leading scorer and senior Kayla McCoy was selected for the first team behind her 10 goals and seven assists, while senior Taylor Racioppi and junior Ella Stevens made the second team. Delaney Graham and Sydney Simmons each made the All-ACC freshman team.

The Blue Devils have historically performed well at Koskinen Stadium. This year, the team went 10-3-0 at home, and Duke has won its last eight home NCAA games. However, even though the match will be played in Durham, the team will need to perform at a high level to advance. 

Rutgers poses a tough task for the first round. The Scarlet Knights went 11-3-5 on the year before suffering a similar fate to Duke in the Big Ten tournament, losing in the quarterfinals as a No. 2-seed. Rutgers is led up front by sophomore Amirah Ali, who has 10 goals and three assists on the year, and junior Nicole Whitley with three goals and seven assists. The team also boasts an impressive record of only 13 goals conceded in 19 games thanks to freshman goalkeeper Meagan McClelland. The Scarlet Knight defense has proven itself to be extremely gritty. Eight of the team’s matches went to overtime, but the team did not concede a goal in any of the overtime periods. 

With ample time to recover from the loss to Florida State, Duke will be expected to overcome these challenges. The Blue Devils closed out the regular season on a seven-game win streak to secure the No. 2 seed in the ACC tournament and now have a chance to build on that effort with a strong postseason showing. 

With a victory, the Blue Devils would take on the winner of Lipscomb and Mississippi State on November 16. The location of that game will depend on whether No. 1 Georgetown wins its match, and a loss from the Hoyas would mean Duke’s second round game would be played in Durham.