Stanford, North Carolina, Virginia.
It is going to be a series of top-10 clashes for the Blue Devils with one already down and two more to go. Their first test against No. 10 Stanford proved to be a success with a couple of goals from both ends ensuring that it was also an entertaining encounter for everyone. Now, it is time for another highly anticipated Duke-North Carolina game.
Coupled with the fact that both teams are coming off a flawless non-conference slate and that it is both squads’ opening ACC game, this matchup is absolutely made for the front pages. Duke comes in ranked fourth in the country while North Carolina checks in at No. 2, and the two will battle Friday night at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill.
“This is the first ACC game for both teams. You always want to start off on the right foot, you want to put your best foot forward anytime in the ACC,” head coach Robbie Church said.
Offense, offense, offense
The great Sir Alex Ferguson once said that “attack wins you games, defence wins you titles.” It is no surprise that there is already a lot of buzz about who will win this year’s ACC women’s soccer tournament. However, it is important to note that this is just the first conference game. Over the course of the season, the sturdiness of both teams' defenses will play a big role in their quest for glory. But for now, this is a regular season game and attacking prowess will be key.
The Blue Devils are coming into this one having scored 20 goals during non-conference play with five coming in their last match against East Carolina. With the likes of Mackenzie Pluck, Tess Boade, Michelle Cooper and company leading the line, the question is: Can the Blue Devils continue this trend of high-scoring wins against North Carolina?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility to fall and winter sport college athletes, allowing Duke seniors Caitlin Cosme, Tess Boade and Lily Nabet to return to the team this year as graduate students. All three heavily contribute to the team’s veteran presence, with the trio being named captains during their senior year.
Boade and Cosme have both started this season on a high, with Boade scoring two goals and registering two assists. Cosme also has two goals including that freekick screamer against Stanford. Experience is truly key and the Blue Devils will need their graduate students to bring in that veteran edge and be on top of their game Friday.
Chapel Hill is a better hunting ground for the Devils
The Blue Devils have faced the Tar Heels 48 times with only three of those ending in their favor. This might look to be a worrying statistic for the Duke faithful at first glance but it is also important to note that all these wins have come in Chapel Hill. While it is every Blue Devil fan’s hope that the team can defeat their fierce rivals at Koskinen Stadium, the team has found more glory on its opponent’s turf, so Duke fans can hope that history will repeat itself.
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The second half
The last 45 minutes will prove extremely crucial for both teams. The Blue Devils and the Tar Heels have scored more of their goals in the second period with Duke having 12 goals in the second half to eight in the first. Similarly, the Tar Heels have scored 10 goals in the first half and 11 in the second half and overtime. The total shots by the Blue Devils in the last 45 is also an increase from the first. If the Devils are able to maintain their focus and tempo for the whole 90 then this game is theirs to lose.
Making use of the bench will prove vital. Lactic acid build up and fatigue are all inevitable and to ensure that Duke’s players maintain their rhythm for that last half, fresh legs will be necessary. Substitutes bring in a burst of energy and Church is going to need to look to his bench on several occasions this Friday to come out on top.