After splitting consecutive one-goal contests against ranked opponents across the last two weeks, the Blue Devils will look to take care of business over the weekend against William & Mary and Elon.
No. 15 Duke will face off against the Tribe at home Friday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium before turning around and traveling to Rudd Field in Elon, N.C. to finish off its weekend against the Phoenix Sunday afternoon.
Last weekend, against Virginia Tech, the defense helped fuel a thrilling 11-10 overtime comeback victory that saw the Blue Devils erase a three-goal deficit and force the extra period with a caused turnover and goal with nine seconds remaining. It was a markedly improved performance on the defensive end after Duke ceded a late two-goal lead en route to a 21-20 loss against Northwestern the prior weekend.
With the defense showing progress as the season has developed, the Blue Devils will look to clean up play on the offensive end this weekend. The team is averaging over 16 turnovers per game—including 18 against the Hokies—placing it 40th in the nation. The carelessness has led to disrupted offensive flow, and with ACC play on the horizon, Duke will need to be crisp in order to compete with the best teams in the country.
“We did not play well. Our defense and Gabbe [Cadoux] played great,” head coach Kerstin Kimel said following the victory over Virginia Tech. “But our offense did not have a good day today at all, in every which way, shape or form. From turnovers to shooting to decision making. We are better than that.”
The Blue Devils (3-1) will look to mix in veteran players with its freshmen, who are still adjusting to the college pace, to help limit the mistakes. As rookies like Olivia Rubin and Maddie Jenner—who have combined for 11 goals this season—develop and Catherine Cordrey, who has 10 turnovers on the season, overcomes a nagging shoulder injury, the Duke offense should be far more potent later in the season.
“We started to mix around our midfield groups a little bit to have a little bit more experience in there and play kids who were demonstrating a little more composure,” Kimel said. “That was definitely deliberate on our end.”
The Blue Devils will need to be especially careful with the ball against William & Mary (2-1), which is a top-10 team in caused turnovers. In its first two victories, the Tribe forced 34 turnovers, before causing 12 more in a 16-8 loss against No. 7 Virginia. Duke will need to be especially careful against Anne McElgunn and Beth Kuyk, who have combined to force 18 turnovers and are both top-15 individually in that statistic.
Elon (2-3) will also test the Blue Devils’ offense as they boast a top-10 goalie in Paulina DiFatta. The sophomore transfer from Fairfield is averaging 11 saves per-game for a save percentage of 57.3 percent. With Duke ranking fourth in the country in shot percentage, converting 132 shots into 70 goals, the winner of that matchup could go a long way in deciding the contest.
After the two non-conference tilts, the Blue Devils will have another ACC contest on the road against Louisville next weekend. The Cardinals lost their first three games, leading to a 1-4 start. Duke, whose backloaded schedule has five of its final seven opponents ranked ACC foes, will hope to enter the matchup in Kentucky riding the momentum of three-game winning streak after this weekend.
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