The No. 9 North Carolina field hockey team will go head to head with its rival, No. 22 Duke, at Karen Shelton Stadium on Friday.
UNC will head into the game trying to capitalize on the momentum from its 6-0 win against Albany, while Duke will be struggling to get back on its feet after suffering a 5-2 loss against Liberty.
Last season, Duke lost to UNC on three separate occasions. Two were during October, while the final loss occurred in April, with North Carolina coming out on top, 4-3, in double overtime.
But on Friday, the Blue Devils will look to redeem themselves from last season's losses.
So far this season, the Tar Heels hold a record of 7-4 and are 1-1 in ACC play. The team has scored 47 goals and allowed 21 from opponents. Duke has gone 4-7 with a 0-3 conference record, scoring 15 goals and allowing 25.
If the Blue Devils want to have a chance to climb up the rankings in the ACC, they will need to beat the Tar Heels on Friday.
This game is the perfect opportunity for Duke to turn its season around. UNC is ranked fourth out of seven teams in the ACC rankings. Winning this game against Duke is pivotal for the Tar Heels to rise in the standings as well, as they have not gotten off to the kind of hot start they are accustomed to.
Key players for UNC will include star senior forward Erin Matson, who leads the ACC with 15 goals scored this season. Senior forward Hannah Griggs is second to Matson on the team with six goals scored, which also ranks her sixth in the conference.
Duke's key players include its two leading scorers this season, senior forward Leah Crouse and graduate defender Lexi Davidson, who have three goals each. The Blue Devils will look to Crouse for her offensive aggressiveness and veteran leadership, as she leads the team with 20 shot attempts. Davidson, in her fifth year on the team, will play a key defensive role.
To add another win to its total, North Carolina must remain focused on its defense against Duke. The Tar Heels rank last in the conference with 2.45 saves per game, while Duke ranks first with 5.82.
The Blue Devils have been unable to find their groove, with only a few scattered wins throughout the season. Winning this Friday against a top-10 team would help Duke gain some much needed momentum. Given the closeness of the last two games the teams have played — with both going into overtime — Friday's rivalry matchup looks to be a competitive one.
In all seven victories this season, the Tar Heels have won by at least two goals — and a majority were by five or more. If they can get into their rhythm early while playing strong defense, they will set themselves up to dominate once again.
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