The fall season has arrived at Duke, which means a host of Blue Devil teams are gearing up for the season debut or have recently started their schedules. With that, The Chronicle introduces Duke teams to watch throughout the fall. Click each caption below for the full preview and be sure to follow us for Duke Athletics coverage throughout the year.
Editor’s Note: This preview will be updated to include cross-country before September 2. The Football Preview from The Chronicle will also be available ahead of Duke’s September 2 kick-off against Temple.
Each of Duke’s last two seasons ended the same way: a tough loss in the NCAA quarterfinals, close to a comeback in the College Cup. This season is not looking like that anymore.
“We really felt like we failed last year,” senior Sophie Jones told The Chronicle.. “But that just fuels our fire and makes us even more excited to try to get back to it this year. I think that really motivates us every day and it’s definitely on our minds.
Although they didn’t travel to Santa Clara, Calif., last November, the 2022 Blue Devils enter the year as announced as any team in program history; their No. 2 preseason ranking is tied with 2011 and 2015 for their highest — two years in which Duke finished the season as a national runner-up.
A host of factors helped put Duke on the precipice of greatness: a vast pool of talent graduating from the collegiate ranks to the NWSL; the Blue Devils retaining two of their five senior starters, ensuring they would suffer less than other teams; a strong incoming class across the country and Duke earning the No. 3 recruiting class; the continued loosening of North Carolina’s stranglehold on recruiting; and most notably, chaotic upheavals in the state of Florida.
To top it all off, a third conference title for head coach Robbie Church seems within reach. Florida State is No. 1 preseason in United Soccer Coaches’ preseason poll, but coaches’ poll often relies too heavily on last year’s results and doesn’t reflect significant change (see: Stanford at #21); the Seminoles were only expected to finish fourth in conference by ACC coaches. The No. 10 North Carolina enters the year with a plethora of talent, but a similar plethora of questions about which players can headline a top-flight team. Virginia’s No. 4 frontline got the ACC’s top forward and its predicted top scorer just tore his anterior cruciate ligament.
In 2022, Duke faces the difficult task of following a 2021 season in which it lost just three regular season games, went to the ACC Championship and advanced to the third round of the tournament. NCAA. Despite the daunting challenge, the Blue Devils, ranked No. 12 nationally, are in a good position to repeat under head coach John Kerr.
On the back half of the field, they bring back graduate goaltender Eliot Hamill after his career year and a once-young defensive core, now veteran juniors Amir Daley, Lewis McGarvey and Antino Lopez. Meanwhile, they also return as a second year and assist machine Shakur Mohammed, as well as Peter Stroud, a junior midfielder. Not to mention a host of other talented returnees taking flight and a promising crop of recruits.
However, Duke still finds himself with a Thorleifur Ulfarsson-sized hole in the roster. The 2021 ACC Offensive Player of the Year and MAC semi-finalist Hermann left for MLS after scoring 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 close the gap and score goals rather than a single player recreating the magic. And with plenty of skills in the roster and a proven system, Duke should have the ability to meet 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 game 1-1 against South Carolina, so it looks like they are on the right track. However, the ACC is one of the toughest conferences for men’s soccer in the country, and with the likes of defending conference champion Notre Dame and vivacious powerhouse Pittsburgh on Duke’s role, it’s hard to say what the team can achieve. All that’s promised is a competitive and fun-to-watch 2022 season. –Sasha Richie
For those who followed the Duke team last year, prepare to see many unfamiliar faces on the field as the season kicks off. Duke added seven freshmen and two grad transfers to its roster, meaning a big part of preseason was “trying to do a lot of work together and getting to know each other,” said head coach Jolene Nagel told The Chronicle. The trajectory of the season will depend on the Blue Devils’ ability to work as a cohesive team and establish their momentum at the start of the season.
But despite the wealth of new freshmen on the team, Duke’s performance in its Saturday exhibition game against Davidson was characterized by a strong sense of maturity. Duke faltered behind the service line throughout the game: “They didn’t let it down in their overall performance,” Nagel said. “And I thought that was growth for us as a team.” Although the Blue Devils often crumbled near the end of tight sets last season, defeating the Wildcats 25-23 in three of Saturday’s sets demonstrates that perhaps this year’s team leadership has helped Duke to learn to set your game and navigate through these situations more smoothly.
The Blue Devils have no shortage of talent this year, and “the gym has been very competitive” so far, according to Nagel, with pre-season training continuing. Many new freshmen come from high schools that have often seen state championships and club teams that still compete on the national circuit; Returning players have also gained experience and improved as the team has continued to work since last season, Nagel said. All in all, Duke has a deep and versatile roster this year, so a lot of players can be expected to see the field every game. Some aspects of the list to watch are how transfer graduate Devon Chang and senior Cami Nazor share the pitch as the team’s dominant passers and how Duke will maintain their strong offensive presence from the outside with the departure of the team. former star outside hitter Ade Owokoniran.
The ACC has proven to be a strong conference in NCAA volleyball — Louisville and Pittsburgh have both won Final Four bids in 2021 — and Duke has the potential to improve on its 7-11 record in the league. last year if he can better capitalize on sets against competitive teams, like Miami and Georgia Tech. It’s a matter of how long it takes the team to work together and find that potential. -Lea Boyd
The new turf at Jack Katz Stadium represents a fresh start for this year’s Duke team. This is the first season since 2019 in which the Blue Devils have been able to return to a normal spring schedule without pandemic restrictions.
“It’s huge, absolutely huge,” said head coach Pam Bustin. “We feel so much more connected and prepared going into this fall than we have since fall 2019.” Bustin explained how the ongoing fall/spring schedule “weighed on us as a program and as individuals.” Last spring brought the opportunity for physical and mental recovery to set the tone for the season ahead.
Duke will have to overcome the expectations of others this fall. On Tuesday, the NFHCA released its preseason rankings, with the Blue Devils ranked 18th. They are coming off a season in which they fell to the bottom of the ACC standings after going 0-6 in conference play. However, both a return to normal practice and new faces create potential for Duke to be a field hockey contender.
There will be nine new players in the Duke program – six freshmen and three transfers. Some members of the incoming squad will need to fill holes on the defense left by recent graduates Lexi Davidson, Caroline Hanan and Grace Kim.
“That was definitely one of the things we had to sort out in the spring because we had lost a lot of experience there,” Bustin said. She predicts that a solid defense will be that of a “collaborative group” where each player knows their role, communicates and holds themselves accountable.
Before the official start of the season on Friday, Duke played a few preseason preseason games against VCU and North Carolina. Bustin seems to like what she saw from her team back then: “We haven’t had such an energetic group,” Bustin said. “It’s not always perfect, but they play hard and want to understand.”
This year may be a rebound for Duke after a few tough seasons during the pandemic. With fresh turf and new players, the potential is there for a turnaround from last season’s record.
The Blue Devils start the season Friday at 1 p.m. at Rutgers. – Suresh Kannoth
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