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Duke fall sports preview: Women's soccer

Head coach Robbie Church has a talented roster to work with this season, including top recruit Sophie Jones.
Head coach Robbie Church has a talented roster to work with this season, including top recruit Sophie Jones.

It seems as though its a yearly occurrence that Duke has the aspiration, the excitement, and, most importantly, the talent to compete for a national championship. This year is no different, as a seasoned Blue Devil team ranked eighth in the preseason polls will soon begin a journey to reach the promised land for the third time in the program’s history and hopefully win its first ever College Cup. Head coach Robbie Church has confidence that with Duke’s stellar defense and young but vibrant offense, this could be their year. 

Player to look out for: Sophie Jones

Despite the fact that Duke’s plethora of returning talent is sure to perform and produce for Blue Devil nation, the headliner of Duke’s highly touted freshman class, Sophie Jones, may be the most exciting player to watch out for this season. Jones’ resume is stellar: she won the 2018-19 Gatorade California Girls Soccer Player of the Year, won the 2018 United Soccer Coaches Youth Girls National Player of the Year, and trained with the U.S. Soccer U-20 Women’s National Team. With some of Duke’s offensive firepower gone due to graduation, Church may call on the talented freshman midfielder to handle some offensive assignments early on in her career, grooming her to be a leader of the team in the future. Jones may have a breakout season at any time, including this year. 

Most anticipated matchup: Florida State 

Of course, most fans are excited for Duke’s two matchups with North Carolina after not even facing the Tar Heels once last season, but the most anticipated matchup will be a chance at sweet Seminole revenge. The Blue Devils will cap their regular season with a game against the preseason No. 1 team in the country, Florida State at the end of October. Last season, the Seminoles knocked Duke out of the ACC tournament in the quarterfinals by just one goal, making Duke’s inevitably futile path to a National Championship much harder. However, Duke has a whole regular season to gain chemistry on both sides of the ball and find an offensive rhythm to face one of the best teams in the nation. If Duke can pull off a victory in Tallahassee, it will give the team a lot of confidence going into this year’s ACC tournament.

Worst Case Scenario:

Even though Duke’s experience catapulted the team to a ranking of eighth in the country, the Blue Devils underachieve and drop more games than they should early on to unranked teams like La Salle and Santa Clara. These losses discourage the Blue Devils, making it harder to have confidence against and defeat more competitive teams like Wake Forest and Virginia. Overall, the season doesn’t go as planned, Duke falls near the bottom of the rankings and doesn’t really have a shot at winning a national championship.

Best Case Scenario: 

The Blue Devils put the pieces together early and ride the wave of one or more of their many offensive threats throughout the season. Duke’s defense also plays to their full potential and shuts down team after team with the help of Mia Gyau who has an All-ACC caliber season in her first season back from injury and Brooke Heinsohn at the goalposts. Duke steals its games against North Carolina and Florida State, and goes on to win the ACC and National Championship, adding to the already storied record of Duke women’s soccer.

Editor's note: This is a part of The Chronicle's daily series of previews for Duke's fall sports, the rest of which can be found here.

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