Over the last two weeks, the Blue Devils have faced some of the toughest competition in the nation, and the challenges are not going away anytime soon.
This weekend, the team is headed to Blacksburg, Va., to take on the Hokies in what is sure to be another close game.
“Virginia Tech and Duke are always an interesting matchup. They’re one of the taller teams in our league,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “[Virginia Tech is] one of the more physical teams in our league so you have to be tough. You have to be brave. They’re really hard to break down.”
Similar to No. 10 Duke (6-1-3, 1-0-2 in the ACC), the 23rd-ranked Hokies have faced their fair share of adversity in the last couple of weeks. After starting the season with an astonishing nine-game winning streak, Virginia Tech (9-2-0, 1-2-0) has lost its last two games to strong competitors in No. 1 Virginia and then-No. 9 Clemson. This is a challenging time for many ACC programs as they exit successful nonconference slates against weaker opponents only to face the top teams in the nation. The Blue Devils have fared well as they have not taken a loss yet in conference play.
However, two draws were not the results that Church was hoping for. It’s going to take more than just keeping an even scoreboard if Duke wants to succeed later in the season.
One way to predict what to expect from this matchup is by looking at the teams’ contests with the best team in the country, Virginia, as they each took place only three days apart. At first glance, Duke looks like the obvious favorite as the team held the Cavaliers to a 0-0 tie while Virginia Tech lost 2-0. However, with a closer look, it becomes clear that the Hokies didn’t just roll over and take a loss. Not only did they shoot just one less attempt than Duke did, but they also held the Cavaliers to just nine shots total, half of what Duke managed to. This is all to say that Duke will be well-matched against Virginia Tech may have another close challenging game on its hands.
Most teams would see a tie against the top-ranked team in the nation as a success. However, Duke is not like most teams. For the Blue Devils, staying close with the Cavaliers for the entire game and not coming out with a win wasn’t anything to celebrate about.
“It wasn’t a wild celebration at all,” Church said on the energy in the locker room after the game. “It was a disappointment that we didn’t get the win. You’d think when you get a tie on the road against a No. 1 team in the country in Virginia, it’d set off a little celebration with it. Maybe they were just too tired to celebrate but I thought that was a really good sight. It shows that we’ve been here before and we don’t just want to get ties. We want to win games.”
One challenge for Duke in this upcoming contest will be getting the ball past Hokie goalkeeper Mandy McGlynn. As one of the most talented seniors in the conference, she was selected to protect America’s goal in the U-20 World Cup in 2018. Her high level of training an experience has only made her that much more equipped to hold off the Duke offense.
“[McGlynn’s] not going to give you anything,” Church said. “You have to do a really good job of finishing.”
Both teams will be evenly matched, both in terms of skill and motivation, as they are both eager to move up in the ACC rankings. The Blue Devils will have to be brave to face the Hokies on their home turf and come out with a win. The stakes are as high as ever, but hopefully for Duke, the Blue Devil offense is up to the challenge.
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