It has been six years since Duke lost its home opener, a 14-12 defeat to then-No. 9 Denver to kick off the 2013 campaign.
The second-ranked Blue Devils will hope to keep that streak rolling when they take on High Point Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. This will mark the sixth all-time meeting between the two programs—with Duke leading the series 5-0—and the fifth consecutive year that Duke will take on the Panthers in one of its first two matchups of the season.
“While we have played them from year to year, Coach Torpey is known kind of as a mechanic,” head coach John Danowski said. “They do a lot of different things. We may see some zone, we may see some 10-man wide. They do a lot of different things all over the field, so we are going to have to be fundamentally sound in order to be successful.”
Last season the Blue Devils (1-0) were led by attackman Justin Guterding, who scored five goals en route to Duke’s 18-6 thrashing of High Point. Guterding may have graduated last spring, but the Blue Devils’ swarm of talent under him should ensure that this year’s version of the annual meeting isn’t any closer.
Then-freshman Joe Robertson posted a hat trick of his own in the team’s win over the Panthers (1-0) a season ago, and has shown that he’s more than prepared to be Duke’s main offensive weapon going forward. The preseason All-ACC selection and now sophomore led the Blue Devils with four goals in the team’s 17-9 win against Furman Saturday.
Furthermore, both sophomore Cameron Badour and senior C.J. Carpenter—each of whom missed all of last year’s title-game run due to injury—posted hat-tricks in Duke’s opening victory. Their return is a huge part of the Blue Devils’ ability to maintain a top ranking despite graduating its all-time leading scorer as well as its starting goalie.
“Well I think the thing that you are always curious about is can those students now start to build a consistency,” Danowski said. “Scoring three goals in the first game is great, but more than that they played right throughout the 60 minutes. And the question is can they continue to play right now four days later. [It is] not easy...everybody guns for Duke and High Point will be really excited and really fired up for this game.”
High Point, meanwhile, returns three of its top four scorers from last year, including sophomore Asher Nolting and senior Chris Young. Young was the only Panther to score twice against Duke last season, while Nolting chipped in a goal of his own in addition to two assists.
The pair also made their presence felt in the team’s dominant 13-0 win over St. Bonaventure Saturday, with Young putting up a game-high four goals and Nolting adding three goals and four assists of his own. Their production will be essential if High Point hopes to improve upon its 6-1 conference record last year—tied for first in the Southern Conference—without 2017-18 goals leader Conner Robinson.
“We saw them early in the year, but then Nolting had a great year and Young had a great year,” Danowski said. “You can make an argument [the Panthers] were a goal or two away from making the NCAA tournament. They grew as the year went on and we expect them to be much better, much different players than they were a year ago.”
Nevertheless, the Blue Devils should have little trouble containing the Panthers’ attack. Midfielder Hunter Vines was the only High Point freshman to even attempt more than a single shot in the team’s season opener, so Duke’s defense—led by All-Americans J.T. Giles-Harris and Cade Van Raaphorst—will be more than familiar with their opponents on the field.
Following Wednesday’s contest, the Blue Devils will travel to Jacksonville, Fla. to take on Jacksonville this Saturday. But the real matchup Duke has its eyes set on is a full week later, when the team returns home to face its first ranked opponent of the season in No. 8 Denver.
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“Not a thing,” Danowski said regarding how his team plans to prepare for the top-10 Pioneers. “We are focused right now on tonight’s meeting at 8:30...we will meet as a group and then we will focus on a pregame meal and then we will focus on our warmup tomorrow. We just want to live in the moment.”