After 310 minutes of conference action, the Blue Devils have scored only one goal and remain winless. But head coach Robbie Church and his players hope to finally break through this weekend.
No. 22 Duke will look to register its first ACC win Sunday against No. 9 Virginia Tech at Koskinen Stadium at 2 p.m. The Blue Devils have had a full week to prepare for the Hokies and will be back on the friendly confines of its home field for the first time since a rough road trip last weekend—a 1-1 draw against Boston College and a 1-0 defeat at the hands of top-ranked Virginia.
“Overall, we created some really good chances [against Boston College and Virginia,]” Church said. “Of course, we’re still working on finishing, we’re working on things in the final third. We have the talent in there. We just have to continue to find the right chemistry. And we’ve got to be able to share the ball, help each other, feed and score goals. All of that will come.”
Duke (6-3-3, 0-1-2 in the ACC) ended its nonconference slate on a promising note, blitzing Appalachian State 6-0 Sept. 17 and netting 21 goals in nine contests. Since then, the Blue Devils have found the back of the net only once, playing a scoreless draw against defending national champion Florida State in their ACC opener in Durham Sept. 20 before the tie against the Eagles and the loss against the Cavaliers.
Despite her eight-game scoring draught, freshman Taylor Racioppi continues to lead Duke’s offense with four goals, three assists and 46 shots. The Blue Devils’ top scorer is Kayla McCoy with five goals, the last of which came against the Mountaineers. The Lincolnwood, Ill., native will look to deliver her first career ACC strike against the Hokies.
“The coaches are adjusting a few things attacking-wise to give us some better opportunities to get the goals,” McCoy said. “But we’ve had a lot of chances in the past couple of games. We just haven’t been able to finish. It’s a mindset. We just have to keep going at it and keep working and trust that [the goals] will come.”
Besides the two newcomers, Church’s squad has other experienced players hoping to reverse the team’s fortunes in front of the goal line. Junior captain Christina Gibbons, redshirt sophomore midfielder Cassie Pecht—the National Rookie of the Year in 2012—sophomore midfielder Ashton Miller and junior defender Rebecca Quinn have combined for eight goals and six assists this season.
On the other end of the field, Duke has registered seven shutouts and only conceded seven goals. Sophomore goalkeeper E.J. Proctor has racked up 37 saves, with a career-high 10 coming from the scoreless draw against Penn State Aug. 28. Sophomore defender Schuyler DeBree tore her ACL when the Blue Devils visited Boston College Sept. 24 and will miss the rest of the season.
“It’s very nice to be back home, training in our home field, being able to use our own locker rooms and being close to our beds.” McCoy said. “We’re ready for this weekend.”
Virginia Tech (10-1-1, 2-1) enters Sunday’s game averaging 2.3 goals per contest. Despite starting their ACC action with a 2-1 loss against then-No. 3 North Carolina, the Hokies earned two consecutive wins last week, beating N.C. State 3-0 and Syracuse 3-1.
Duke’s defense will have to pay special attention to Murielle Tiernan, the Hokies’ leading scorer with nine goals. The forward has another weapon alongside her in Ashley Meier—who has six goals and four assists—and teammates Laila Gray, Alani Johnson and Candace Cephers have netted at least three strikes apiece as well.
Defensively, the Hokies have allowed 11 goals and goalkeeper Kaylyn Smith has posted 32 saves and three shutouts.
“[Virginia Tech] has one of the best forwards in the country,” Church said. “[Tiernan] plays with the back to goal, she can beat you up to dribble and she scores goals. That’s something we have to deal with. Defensively, they’re very solid and don’t give up many goals. They’re a top-10 team so they don’t have a lot of weaknesses. But we’re looking forward to playing them.”