Coming off of a last-minute win against N.C. State, Duke will look to carry its momentum into its first home win against North Carolina since 2014.
The Blue Devils (1-1, 1-0 in the ACC) will face off against their Tobacco Road rivals this Friday at 7 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium. Head coach John Kerr celebrated his 200th career win this past Saturday after freshman Nick Pariano found the net with just over 30 seconds left in double overtime to defeat the Wolfpack. This Friday, however, a matchup with the Tar Heels will present its own challenges.
“They’re a very talented team, and the two major challenges that we have is that they have a really fierce press and they press you hard on your own back third. We have to be ready for it,” Kerr said. “They’re constantly sprinting to put you under pressure and they make it very difficult to play it out of the back. And offensively, they’re one of those teams that’s very possession oriented, and probably the key for us is to be very disciplined and not dive in.”
Although the Blue Devils have lost their last two home matchups against North Carolina dating back to 2016, Duke ended a 20-year road losing streak to the Tar Heels last season. While the team is fresh with new faces and only two games into its 2020 campaign, Kerr already has plans on what he wants his young group to focus on.
“Like UNC, we’re trying to make sure our press is organized and understand that if the initial part of it gets broken that we can retreat and get behind the ball, so that’s from a defensive side,” Kerr said. “And then offensively, we need to take care of the ball and try to find the open spaces on the field.”
The Tar Heels will be playing in their regular season opener after they defeated N.C. State 1-0 in a scrimmage Sept. 20. Duke has had a little bit more time to measure what its own strengths and weaknesses are thus far, which will give the Blue Devils a bit of an advantage off the start.
Nevertheless, Friday's game will still be a good indicator of how Duke matches up to the rest of the ACC right now.
“Any win against UNC is a real positive and gives a lot of pride to our players and Duke University itself,” Kerr said. “We’re hoping it’ll give us momentum if we can get a victory and show that we’ve come a long way and are developing. The real key is we continue to get better as a team. It’s still early in the season—we didn’t have any scrimmage games to get the kinks out, so this will be a good indication of where we’re at and where we need to go.”