After being easily handled by the Blue Devils last year in a 17-10 contest, Syracuse is looking for revenge. It's coming into the match strong, riding a five-game win streak, including wins against then-No. 16 Florida and then-No. 12 Notre Dame.
No. 12 Duke will host No. 4 Syracuse Saturday at 12 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. This will be the Blue Devils' second top-10 matchup in the past week. After losing to No. 8 Virginia last Saturday, Duke is still in the hunt for its first top-10 win since 2016.
Syracuse’s offense features a balanced scoring effort with six players with 20 or more points on the season. At the center of this attack is junior Emily Hawryschuk who leads the way with 55 total points and ranks 18th in the country in goals per game, averaging 3.38.
“When it comes to defending them, we have to play really good team defense,” said Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel. “Their top kid—Emily Hawryschuk—I thought we did a really good job on her last year, but she’s taken her game to another level. She’s really big, she’s really strong, she’s really determined to get to the net and it’s just going to take a good solid team defensive effort from us to limit her.”
And after going 2-of-11 on shots and 1-of-5 on free position shots last year against the Blue Devils, Hawryschuk will be looking for redemption.
On Duke’s offensive side of the ball, the Blue Devils will need to make sure they continue to win the draw and get opportunities like they have all year. Led by sisters Olivia and Maddie Jenner, they rank seconnd in the country in draw control percentage, hovering around 67 percent. Syracuse sits significantly lower, averaging 54 percent on the year.
“It starts with making sure that we have the ball more. I think that the draw is gonna be a huge focus for us to make sure that we have more opportunities than they do,” said Kimel. “Given opportunities that we create for ourselves on the draw, we know that we’re going to have the ball, so we want to make sure we’re doing what we can to try to take advantage and exploit some of their weaknesses on the defensive side of the field.”
Syracuse plays an aggressive zone defense and causes a lot of turnovers, averaging just under 11 per game, but the Orange don’t cough the ball up much themselves, ranking 11th in the country in least turnovers per game. However, the cost of this defense is a lot of fouls—about 26 per game— and yellow cards, where they’re tied for sixth in the nation with 26 total. Luckily, the Blue Devils have faced a defense similar to the Orange already this season in Northwestern—a match that Duke dropped in a heartbreaker 21-20.
“We’re going to see a lot of pressure all along the perimeter on Saturday [against] Syracuse” said Kimel. “[Other teams] create a lot of their own problems because they’re not patient and they don’t try and wear their defense down. So I think for us it’s going to be out taking good care of the ball and making good decisions. And maintaining that poise and composure and not letting their pressure get to us.”
Despite the challenge that Syracuse poses, the Blue Devils should head into the matchup confident. They’re coming off a midweek matchup against Campbell that saw them win easily, 21-4. This is the first time they’ve played at home since March 18th, where they’re 5-0.
“We’re obviously excited to be home and happy to be back home on Koskinen” said Kimel. “I’d like for us to build some momentum off our game Tuesday night that we had down at Campbell. I think our team handled that really well - an away game, on the road, 7 p.m., not something that we do very often and I thought our girls were really focused and executed well. And so that’s something we’re really going to try to build on going into our game against Syracuse.”
Up next after Syracuse is top-ranked Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
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