DURHAM, N.C.- Duke women’s soccer head coach Robbie Church released the Blue Devils’ 2013 schedule on Thursday, which includes matches against 13 squads who advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season and eight games against teams who ended the 2012 season ranked in the top-20 of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll.
The Blue Devils return seven starters from last season and 23 letterwinners from a 2012 team that recorded a 15-6-2 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the fourth time in the past six years.
“We’re very excited about our schedule,” Church said. “We have a good team coming back next year and we want to challenge them every weekend. We start off with a bang right away opening weekend. We go to one of the toughest places in the country to play at Texas A&M. They have unbelievable crowds, along with just a fantastic team returning and then we travel to play SEC power South Carolina in Colombia.”
Duke kicks off the 2013 slate at Texas A&M on Aug. 23, closely followed by a trip to Columbia, S.C., to face South Carolina Aug. 25. The Blue Devils will then compete in the UNC Nike Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C. on Aug. 30 – Sept. 1 against Kennesaw State and New Mexico.
Following the four match road trip, the squad will return to Koskinen Stadium to host the Duke Nike Classic Sept. 6-8. Joining the Blue Devils in the event will be reigning national champion North Carolina, UCLA and West Virginia. The classic is shaping up to be one of, if not the most challenging tournaments of the season. Duke will face West Virginia Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m., before playing UCLA, who ended last season No. 6 in the NSCAA poll, Sept. 8 at 2:30 p.m.
“The Nike Classic here at Duke will probably be the toughest tournament in the country,” said Church. “You have four of the top-15 teams in the country playing in a tournament. What we try to do is challenge ourselves during the non-conference schedule and we find out what the strengths of our team and the weaknesses of our team as we enter ACC play.”
The team will then open ACC action Sept. 12 as it plays host to Miami before facing Florida State on Sept. 15. Also seeing action at home in Koskinen Stadium will be Virginia, Virginia Tech, N.C. State and Pittsburgh, while the Blue Devils will travel to play Wake Forest, Syracuse, Boston College, Maryland, Clemson and Notre Dame.
“The ACC is going to be unreal, absolutely unreal,” said Church. “It was probably the best ever last year and we were very young across the conference. A lot of people are returning, a lot of quality players, and then you add Notre Dame, Syracuse and Pittsburgh. It’s a typical ACC women’s soccer year. Every weekend, we will have at least one, sometimes two really challenging games. From a mental and a physical standpoint, it will be a very challenging year.”
Duke will conclude the regular season Oct. 31, when it travels to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina at 7 p.m.
The Blue Devils return seven starters in 2013 including its top six scorers, who combined to tally 57 of Duke’s 65 goals a year ago. Leading the charge will be the senior tandem of Laura Weinberg (16 goals, 12 assists) and Kim DeCesare (16 goals, 6 assists). Other returning starters include sophomore Cassie Pecht (NCAA-best 15 assists), senior Kaitlyn Kerr (8 goals, 7 assists), senior Gilda Doria (6 goals, 11 assists), Mollie Pathman (6 assists) and two-time All-America Natasha Anasi (2 assists, 6 shutouts).
Duke will return 95.4 percent of its scoring from 2012 as the Blue Devils notched a school-record 207 points, school-record 77 assists and was two shy of the school-record of 67 goals. The Blue Devils will have to replace five four-year starters in in goal (Tara Campbell), on defense (Maddy Haller, Erin Koballa and Libby Jandl) and in the midfield (Nicole Lipp).