In 2022, Duke faces the tough task of following up a 2021 season in which it lost just three regular-season matches, went to the ACC championship and made it to the third round of the NCAA tournament. Despite the tall order, the Blue Devils, ranked No. 12 nationally, are in a good position to repeat under the leadership of head coach John Kerr.
On the back half of the pitch, they bring back graduate goaltender Eliot Hamill after his career year and a once young, now veteran defensive core of juniors Amir Daley, Lewis McGarvey and Antino Lopez. Meanwhile, they also return sophomore forward and assist machine Shakur Mohammed, as well as 2022 major award watch list staple Peter Stroud, a junior midfielder. This is not to mention a host of other talented returnees coming into their own and a promising crop of rookies.
However, Duke is still left with a Thorleifur Ulfarsson-sized hole in the roster. The 2021 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and MAC Hermann semifinalist left for the MLS after tallying a conference-leading 15 goals in just 16 games last season. While Ulfarsson’s departure certainly presents a major challenge for the team, the key for the Blue Devils will be a whole-team effort to fill the gap and score goals rather than any one player recreating the magic. And with plenty of skill up and down the roster and a proven system, Duke should have the ability to rise to that challenge.
As it stands, the Blue Devils are coming off of two exhibition games in which they won by a combined margin of 10-1 after tying their first exhibition 1-1 against South Carolina, so it seems like they’re on the right track. However, the ACC is one of the toughest conferences for men’s soccer in the nation, and with the likes of defending conference champion Notre Dame and perennial powerhouse Pittsburgh on Duke’s docket, it’s hard to say what ends the team can achieve. All that’s promised is a 2022 season that is competitive and fun to watch. -Sasha Richie
New player to watch: Kenan Hot
A bit of nominative determinism was at play in the preseason when freshman Kenan Hot got, well, hot in Duke’s 7-1 exhibition rout of Longwood. The New Jersey native assisted on two goals before scoring his own en route to a team-leading four points. Those were his first points of the preseason, but Hot had earned a starting job beginning with the first exhibition game, and the flash of scoring touch he showed against Longwood could help him secure that job long-term.
Before coming to Duke, Hot played for the minor-league affiliate of New York City FC, which he joined after playing for the Hartford Athletic of the USL Championship league in 2021. While exciting in his own right, Hot also comes as just one part of a deep 2022 recruiting class that could lead the Blue Devils to success for years to come. -Richie
Returning players to watch: Peter Stroud, Shakur Mohammed
Stroud has continually met high expectations throughout his career at Duke, and he will once again be one of the key players on the Blue Devils’ roster this season. After being named an All-American and the ACC Midfielder of the Year while leading his team as a captain last season, his skill, leadership and experience will be crucial as Duke chases championships this season.
Mohammed impressed last season with three goals, seven assists and 13 points. He is a quick, agile and dynamic player with excellent playmaking and scoring ability who is ready to play an even bigger role for his team this season. Mohammed is an exciting player to watch and is poised for a stellar 2022 season. -Annaleise Linkenhoker
Most anticipated matchup: Oct. 14 vs. Notre Dame
After a convincing victory against the Blue Devils last November in the final of the ACC Tournament, the Fighting Irish stormed their way to the national semifinals, losing on penalties to eventual champion Clemson. Duke failed to win either of its games against the South Bend, Ind., outfit last season and gave its opponent the first conference title in program history. As the preseason No. 12 and No. 4, respectively, the meeting—this time on home soil—is sure to involve some of the country’s top talents, two of its top coaches and one of its most compelling storylines. With Notre Dame’s Dawson McCartney—the hero of that final defeat—onto greener pastures as well, the Blue Devils are primed for a fightback. Expect fireworks with this one. –Andrew Long
We saw last season that rapid turnarounds and upsets are certainly in the cards for this Duke group. Soccer is a low-scoring game of many variables, after all, and given the right time, place and squad of players, anything can happen. If this season goes anywhere near as well as last season did, there’s no reason to put an ACC tournament title beyond them. For this to happen, Hamill will need to recapture his 2021 form, Stroud will need to keep bossing the midfield and Mohammed will need to up his end product. If the stars align, the new recruits slide in seamlessly and Kerr maintains his team’s mentality. It could turn out to be yet another exciting season for the Blue Devils. -Long
While the Blue Devils did put together an impressive 14-5-1 season in 2021, they struggled in the NCAA championship, bowing out in the third round to Saint Louis. What’s more, the outstanding 2021 season was more of an outlier than the norm—2019 and 2020 were both losing campaigns for Duke. While the team did make a run to the ACC final last year, it still has limited experience making deep runs when it matters most. As a result, Duke could find itself either regressing to a more pedestrian .500 record or even outperforming expectations in the regular season before falling early in the end-of-season tournaments. -Robert Miron
Richie: 10-4-1 (5-3 in the ACC), loss in NCAA second round
Long: 10-3-2 (5-2-1 in the ACC), loss in ACC semifinals
Linkenhoker: 10-3-2 (5-2-1 in the ACC), loss in ACC finals
Miron: 9-4-2 (4-3-1 in the ACC), loss in ACC semifinals
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.