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The UNC-Duke rivalry is more than just men's basketball

UNC club lacrosse UNC Clubs Sports Rivalry v. Duke

The UNC club lacrosse team poses after a win against Duke in 2018. UNC won 7-5.

Photo courtesy of Jackson Ozello.

Varsity sports teams aren’t the only teams on campus that take the Duke rivalry seriously. Club sports teams also want nothing more than to demolish Duke every time they compete.  

“Whether they’re bad or good, it doesn’t really matter," said John Beeson, captain of the club hockey team. "We want to beat the pants off them. Like, it’s Duke. No matter what we want to beat them 10-0."

When it comes to the week of preparation before playing Duke, many club practices have a much different rhythm than usual. The intensity and excitement is heightened, as well as the expectation to perform come game time.  

“As a lacrosse team, we don’t really treat it differently in terms of practice like drills or whatnot, but everyone knows it's Duke," said Jackson Ozello, a captain on the men’s club lacrosse team. "Everyone’s coming to practice ready to work hard and beat Duke. So, it's a very energetic practice. A lot more fun. A lot more intense."

Beeson agreed with Ozello’s sentiment about the increased focus when getting ready to face the Blue Devils. 

“We absolutely take it more seriously than any other game," Beeson said.

Similar to varsity sports, the performance of club teams from one year to the next depends heavily on graduating seniors and incoming first-years. Although previous victories are comforting, Ozello said they still need to prepare for Duke because their team composition has changed, as has UNC's.

“Last year we beat them 7-5, but this year, they beat a team that we just lost to, so we really don’t know where they are going to be at this year," Ozello said. "It’s really a year-to-year basis." 

For others, beating Duke is a standard expected to be met each season. Women’s club soccer Captain Bella Reiss said she expects her team to beat the Blue Devils every year. 

“In my four years here, we have never lost to Duke," Reiss said. "They try even harder to beat us because we have historically always beat them."

Emotions on both teams run high, Beeson said, as intensity comes from players on each side of the historic rivalry.

“I think both teams are obnoxious honestly. Like we both know we are our rivals," Ozello said. "They’re trying to get in our head. We’re trying to get in their head. They’re working hard. We’re working hard. So I’d say, yes, they are more obnoxious, but I’d say we’re definitely comparable to them."

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