For the second year in a row, Duke dropped one of its first two games of the year last Saturday, falling at home to unranked Air Force. This week, the Blue Devils have a chance to get back on track following their surprising loss to the Falcons against the school that shocked them in their home opener last year: No. 20 High Point.
After hosting the Eagles at Koskinen Stadium last year, No. 7 Duke will hit I-85 and travel east this Saturday to face High Point at noon at Vert Stadium in High Point, N.C. The Blue Devils are 0-1 for the first time since 2017, when coincidentally they also lost to an unranked Air Force team. They will be facing an Eagles team that returns many of the key players from the group that defeated then-No. 2 Duke a year ago and went on to also beat eventual-national champion Virginia during their regular season as well.
“[High Point has] a lot of guys back so they know what it’s like to beat Duke. They certainly will not be intimidated, they’re not afraid of us and we kind of feel like we’re the underdog going in because they beat us so soundly especially at home [last year],” said head coach John Danowski. “So for us it’s kind of exciting to be in that role and to prove ourselves after last week.”
The final box score from Duke’s loss to Air Force makes the score itself seem even more surprising. The Blue Devils got off 21 more shots than the Falcons, including eight more on goal. They collected more ground balls than their visitors, won more than twice as many face offs and were perfect on clears while turning the ball over an equal amount of times. Duke (0-1) jumped out to a 5-0 lead, and led by four goals at the half. However, the Blue Devils were outscored 9-4 in the second half and couldn’t close the gap in the final few minutes of the game.
“The hope is that the guys realize that over the 60 minutes you have to earn the right to say you’ve won a competition. Nothing is handed to you just because you play at Duke or just because you’d like to win. So does your opponent. It’s a good early season lesson,” Danowski said. “Duke [men’s] basketball if I remember lost to Stephen F. Austin and they’re doing pretty well. Everybody wants to give Duke their best effort, and that’s another lesson: you’re going to get everybody’s best effort every week.”
The Eagles (0-1) were evidence of that lesson last season in their 13-9 win against the Blue Devils, a game in which High Point outscored Duke 7-3 in the final quarter to pull off the stunning upset. Despite the initial shock at the outcome, the game was hardly a fluke for the Eagles, who finished the season 13-3.
For the Blue Devils, that game proved to be a bit of a spark, as they won their next seven games, including four against ranked opponents. To replicate that turnaround beginning Saturday, Duke will turn to some relatively unknown faces for the second week in a row, as more players get opportunities with several key pieces out for the season. 27 Blue Devils saw action against Air Force, an extremely high number for such a competitive game, but one that is indicative of the many opportunities available for players to step up and fill.
“We’re relying on a lot of guys. Tyler Carpenter for his first college game was terrific. Owen Caputo I thought played a very limited role last year played really well as a sophomore. There’s a whole bunch of guys that for their first time out they were fine. And so we’re looking for a little bit more of that,” Danowski said. “We also have sophomores and juniors that are playing for the first time so it’s not just incumbent on the freshmen to grow up fast, but those guys who’ve been watching on the sideline and now it’s their turn.”
One of those guys was Cameron Badour, a junior who scored three goals against the Falcons last week after scoring just seven last season. Badour also picked up the first assist of his college career and will be looked to more this Saturday as Duke tries to right the ship early for the second year in a row. The Eagle defense was strained to the limit against Maryland last week, as the Terrapins managed 70 shots and 23 goals in a dominant win. However, freshman goalie Parker Green also made 20 saves against one of the best offensive teams in the nation, an impressive feat no matter the final score.
“They like to play fast and loose. Maybe the Maryland game for them was a Feb. 1 game as well. The thing you certainly take out of it is their goalie made 21 saves,” Danowski said. “That’s an unbelievable day by any standard against any opponent. They’re going to be terrific in the goal.”
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.