DURHAM, N.C. – Head coach Robbie Church and the Duke women’s soccer team officially opened practice on Wednesday morning as the Blue Devils featured a two-hour session to kick off the 2013 campaign.
“It was great,” commented Church on the first practice. “We did our first two tests today – agilities and beep test. We had good results. I was really, really happy overall with the team. Like everybody this time of year, we still have some work to do in that area. Overall, I think the girls did a good job of coming in fit. I loved their mentality of how they really attacked the test.”
Following four days of practice, the squad will travel to the mountains for team bonding and practice for four days.
“We got into technical work today – just did about 20 minutes of individual ball touches,” said Church. “That looked sharp and it looked like they had been playing. Of course, probably the most important part of the day is the end of the day when we competed a little bit. We had a good, solid two-hour practice and I thought it was done very well.”
Church, who enters his 13th season with the Blue Devils, returns five starters and a total of 22 letterwinners to the field in 2013. Duke welcomes back 95 percent of its scoring from a year ago, after advancing to the NCAA Elite Eight for the fourth time out of the last six years and notching a 15-6-2 overall mark.
“It is the greatest time of the year – like Christmas in August,” commented Church. “Preseason is the best. I love preseason because you have two practices a day. The players might not like it as much as the coaches do. I love being around these kids and they are great young ladies. We are very impressed with them every time we are around them.”
On the offensive end, the Blue Devils return nine student-athletes who scored one or more goals last year, including the top four scorers from a year ago. Duke’s top returning scorer’s in 2013 include Laura Weinberg (16 goals), Kim DeCesare (16 goals), Kaitlyn Kerr (eight goals) and Cassie Pecht (six goals). The Blue Devils are coming off posting 65 goals and a school-record 207 points in 2012.
After totaling 11 goals and nine assists as a freshman in 2011, junior Kelly Cobb is expected to return to the lineup in 2013. Cobb, who is a product of Chugiak, Alaska, missed the first nine games of last season as she was representing the U.S., at the U-20 World Cup and then was bothered by injuries after returning. She was limited to only 10 matches and scored two goals in 2012.
Duke’s defensive unit will have a different look in 2013, with the losses of four-year starters Tara Campbell in goal along with defenders Erin Koballa, Maddy Haller and Libby Jandl. The Blue Devils return Anasi, who is a two-time NSCAA All-America to anchor the backfield. Others expected to see action on defense include Rape, redshirt junior Alex Straton, Tabria Williford, Anastasia Hunt and Sammie Thomas, along with a group of solid incoming freshmen.
In goal for the Blue Devils will be the tandem of redshirt junior Meghan Thomas and redshirt sophomore Ali Kershner. Thomas, who is a product of Castle Rock, Colo., saw action in four games last year allowing zero goals in 87 minutes. A native of Palo Alto, Calif., Kershner played in five games, allowing one goal in 120 minutes.
Duke welcomes a solid recruiting class in 2013 that includes Rebecca Quinn, Lizzy Raben, Toni Payne, Krysia Sikora, Malinda Allen, Catherine Blair and Christina Gibbons.
Duke will host Tennessee on Friday, Aug. 16 at 5:00 p.m., in an exhibition contest before hitting the road to open the 2013 regular season. The Blue Devils will face Texas A&M in College Station, Texas on Aug. 23 and then will take on South Carolina in Columbia, S.C., on Aug. 25. Duke features eight home contests this season with all home games being played at Koskinen Stadium.
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.