Coming off a thrilling overtime win at Wake Forest, Duke will look to continue its strong start back on its home field.
The Blue Devils will take on Virginia this Thursday at 6 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. Not only will the matchup be Duke's first official conference game, it will also be the team’s first major test of the season—the Cavaliers ranked third in the ACC Preseason Coaches Poll.
“We know that Virginia’s one of the top three teams in our conference,” head coach Robbie Church said. “You have Florida State, Virginia and [North] Carolina going into the season, and I don’t think there’s any doubt that those three should be ranked our top three in preseason. Now, you could argue what order they go in, but I think they’re all, rightfully so, there. So I think it’s a good measuring stick for us, too.”
Duke (1-0), meanwhile, ranked fourth in the preseason poll.
Virginia (1-0) normally plays 4-3-3 and is a team with a particularly strong offense, which Church acknowledged will be a challenge for the Blue Devils’ defensive line.
“[Virginia’s three forwards are] as good as anybody in the country,” Church said. “They’re all good with the ball, they can beat you one-v-one, they all got pace, they can get in behind you and they’re all very, very high-level players and play on national teams.”
Expect to see a lot of pressing against the weaker backlines from the Blue Devils Thursday, as Duke made it a focus this past weekend to analyze game film to dissect the Cavaliers’ talented offense.
Following the momentum from the win at Wake Forest, Duke’s veterans will likely play a key role in bringing energy and intensity on the field. Furthermore, continued chemistry between ACC Offensive Player of the Week Marykate McGuire and sophomore midfielder Sophie Jones will be essential for the Blue Devil offense in what is sure to be a very close matchup.
As Duke’s campaign gets underway, the Blue Devils see this match against the Cavaliers as a measuring stick for the season moving forward.
“I think we’re very good, I think we showed signs of that in our first game against Wake Forest, but we also showed signs of rust and signs of having to get better and having to grow,” Church said. “So you want to see how we grow between our first and second game, especially defensively.”
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