DURHAM, N.C. – Week one is in the books for head coach Robbie Church and the 2017 Duke women’s soccer team, as they wrapped up practice Tuesday night.
After reporting last Tuesday, the Blue Devils kicked off their first practice last Wednesday and have hit the field several times since then as they move closer to the start of the 2017 campaign.
“It’s been great. I’m really excited about the potential of this team," Church said. "We started out of the gates a little slow but the second and third practices were phenomenal. Obviously we’re only a week into it and we have a long way to go but I love the coachability of this team.”
Duke returns 10 starters and a wealth of experience in 2017. The Blue Devils welcome back nine of their top 11 scorers from their 2016 squad that made their fifth trip to the NCAA quarterfinals or better in the last six seasons.
A total of 24 letterwinners return for Duke along with one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Church's squad added eight freshmen to the roster for 2017.
“We have a lot of new faces and a lot of players, too. We’re trying to shuffle people in and look at the best positions for those players,” Church said. “Overall, it’s been fun. It’s like a puzzle. You put a piece here and a piece here. Does it fit here or better on this side? But it’s been fun and the girls have been very receptive with asking ‘where can I play?’ or ‘where can I help this team do well?’”
The Blue Devils enter the season No. 12 overall in the United Soccer Coaches preseason top 25 that was released last week. With the listing, Duke has now been preseason ranked in the top 20 nationally for the fifth time and top 15 for the fourth time over the last six seasons.
Duke will to practice throughout the week before heading to Clemson for an exhibition showdown with the Tigers. The contest between the ACC rivals is set for 6 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 11, with admission free to all fans. The Blue Devils will open the regular season in Cary, N.C., for the UNC Nike Classic against North Carolina Friday, Aug. 18 at 6:00 p.m.
“We have the opportunity to play Clemson and we appreciate them playing us,” Church commented. “We’re looking to see where are we at this stage. What are things that we’re doing well and what are things that we need to work on for the next week? It’ll be one week from the first regular season game, so we’ll be looking at our personnel and how they perform in-game.”
For tickets to all of Duke’s home women’s soccer contests, contact the Duke Athletic Ticket Office at (919) 681-BLUE (2583) or call (877) 375-3853. The home opener will be Sunday, Aug. 20 versus Xavier at 1 p.m.