After five straight home contests, Duke will finally get back on the road.
The fifth-ranked Blue Devils flew out Wednesday to Chestnut Hill, Mass., for a 4 p.m. matinée against Boston College before they drive to Syracuse, N.Y., to take on Syracuse at 11 a.m. Sunday. Thursday's contest will be the team's first game away from Durham since its season-opener Sept. 10, and its first game outside of North Carolina all season.
“Talking to a couple players, I think the players are excited to leave. They’re excited to get out,” Duke head coach Robbie Church said. “I mean, we’ve been here since the middle of July, and we really haven’t left except for the little bus trip to Wake Forest. So I think they’re excited to go and travel and fly together as a whole group.
"We each have individual rooms, and we’re taking precautions, obviously masking up. The bus is different—everybody has one row on the bus. So there’s so many things that are just completely different. And we’re testing every day on the road. But they’re excited about going on the road. They’re excited about the change of scenery.”
Boston College (0-3, 0-3 in the ACC) and Syracuse (0-3, 0-3) have both played relatively light schedules but remain winless, with the Orange still yet to score a single goal on the season. For Duke (3-1-2, 1-1-2), these matches are not only a welcome break from having to play successions of top-10 teams, but chances for the Blue Devils to tune up a bit, try some new things and get their attacking rotation into a groove before some tougher games in a couple of weeks.
Arguably the toughest challenge Duke will face will be acclimating to traveling for sport during a pandemic.
“We had to fill out travel itineraries for the state of New York—all the players and all the staff had to, everybody that was flying,” Church said. “We do have some rules, and things will be a little more strict than the state of Massachusetts we’re going to be in. As far as once we get there, we’re really just to stay at the hotel.
"There’s nowhere else, really. Hotel, training field, back to the hotel; hotel, game field and then directly to the airport. So there will be no visiting or restaurants. All the food will be catered in to us there. So there’s a lot of things that we’re doing to keep our players healthy, a lot of things that we have to do.”
This probably hurts the most for Marykate McGuire, Brooke Heinsohn, and Holly Stam, each of whom went to high school within driving distance of Boston but will not be able to see their family and friends in the stands, with Boston College allowing only essential game personnel and credentialed media.
There are rewards for strict precautions, though.
Thanks to the remarkable seriousness and efficacy with which Duke has handled COVID-19, the Blue Devils have had the luxury of playing all six of their matches at their scheduled time.
"It’s a completely different world out there,” Church said. “And you just always still hope that you can play. You still don’t know that you’re going to play right now. You just hope that, [on] game day, there’s no last-minute calls saying, 'Something happened, somebody’s positive, so the game’s off at the last minute.”
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