DURHAM, N.C. – With the regular season almost a week away, the Duke women’s soccer program is set for the first of two exhibition matchups as the Blue Devils take on the Georgia Bulldogs Thursday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. ET at Koskinen Stadium.
The showdown will see two familiar faces return to Bull City, as Georgia head coach Billy Lesesne and assistant Katie Ely return for the first time since being a part of the Blue Devil coaching staff. Lesesne was a 14-year member of Robbie Church’s staff, including spending his last 11 as the associate head coach. Ely was Duke’s goalkeepers coach from 2011-12, which included the 2011 run to the NCAA College Cup Finals.
Thursday marks the first action for Duke since closing out a historic 2017 season in Orlando, Fla., at the NCAA College Cup. Despite losing a number of seniors, including a program-record six NWSL picks, a majority of the Blue Devils’ scoring returns this year. Duke brings back four of its top five point scorers and four of its top five in goals, including All-ACC Preseason Team selections Kayla McCoy (14 goals, seven assists and 35 points) and Ella Stevens (five goals, 11 assists and 21 points) along with Chelsea Burns (six goals, three assists and 15 points) and Taylor Racioppi (five goals, five assists and 15 points).
Senior Kat McDonald (two goals, two assists, six points) and sophomore Karlie Paschall (two goals, one assist, five points) round out the six returnees who were in the top 10 in scoring last season for Duke.
Along with Burns, the Blue Devils return ACC Freshman Team selection Taylor Mitchell to a standout defensive line that helped set school records for shutouts (18), ACC clean sheets (8) and ACC goal differential (+20). Mia Gyau, who suffered a season-ending injury just three matches into the 2017 season, will return as well for her junior campaign.
Church also welcomes one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, as six new faces make up the Blue Devils’ No. 8 nationally ranked crew, including Emily Crocco, Delaney Graham, Marykate McGuire, Sydney Simmons, Holly Stam and Mackenzie Pluck. This is the seventh-straight year that the Blue Devils have reeled in a top 10 recruiting class, with the 2018 edition highlighted by five players in TopDrawerSoccer.com’s Top 150, including three inside the top 75.
The Blue Devils enter Thursday ranked third in the United Soccer Coaches Preseason Top 25, the highest since starting off the 2016 season at No. 3. Duke has been preseason ranked in the top 10 for the fourth time and top 15 for the fifth time over the last seven seasons.
Following Thursday’s match, Duke will wrap up exhibition play with a Sunday night showdown against rival North Carolina on Aug. 12. Kickoff is set for 10 p.m. ET at Koskinen Stadium.
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