There's no better way to finish off a regular season than Duke vs. North Carolina.
The Blue Devils will head to Chapel Hill Friday at 8 p.m. to take on the fourth-ranked Tar Heels at Dorrance Field. While both teams have already clinched their spot in the ACC tournament, the victor will jump the other in terms of seeding.
Last week’s game against Kentucky was postponed to the spring due to positive COVID-19 cases and contact tracing on the Wildcat side, meaning Duke hasn't taken the field since Oct. 23. Nevertheless, the Blue Devils are ready to bounce back and play up to the momentum needed in this rivalry matchup.
“It’s given us a chance to regroup and for some guys to heal from a couple of knocks that they might have had," head coach John Kerr said Thursday regarding the extended break. "We feel good going into the game tomorrow night."
The highest the Blue Devils (2-4, 2-3 in the ACC) can jump to with a win is the No. 3 spot in the South Region. A North Carolina win, however, would secure home-field advantage in the quarterfinals of the ACC tournament for the Tar Heels (2-1-2, 2-1-2), which they will surely use as extra motivation heading into Friday's contest.
“If they happen to beat us they’ll finish second in the [South Region] and we’ll finish third if we can beat them," Kerr said. "So I think that’s one of their targets and we have to be aware of their motivation.”
The Blue Devils lost to North Carolina 2-0 just over a month ago, but have since put up some solid performances against some of the top teams in the country. Kerr's squad forced overtime against No. 5 Clemson and outshot No. 2 Wake Forest 18-8, though proved unable to close either of those games out.
Expect graduate student Jack Doran, who's notched a team-leading three goals this season, as well as an aggressive defense to be key in hope of a different result this time around.
“I think our press is going to be crucial, and if we can steal some balls on their end that will really help us get some opportunities,” Kerr said. “And we have to stop them from scoring. We have to make sure we don’t give any set plays away, meaning no dumb fouls, and make sure if we do have fouls against us that we mark well.”
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