Courtesy: Duke Sports Information Release: 04/23/2014
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DURHAM, N.C.- A trio of Blue Devils – Gilda Doria, Ali Kershner and Tabria Williford -- have been selected tri-captains for the 2014 women’s soccer season, which was announced Wednesday by Blue Devil head coach Robbie Church. The captains were selected following a vote by team members.
“I’m excited to have those three as our leaders for the 2014 season,” said Church. “I think they’re all wonderful young ladies. They’ve done a great job for us both on the field and in the classroom. They’re all going to bring a unique leadership style to our team.”
Doria, who missed all of the 2013 campaign with a torn ACL, earned the tri-captain nod for the second straight year. A native of West Palm Beach, Fla., Doria notched six goals, 11 assists and 23 points as a junior in the midfield. The 5-7 midfielder earned Duke Nike Classic All-Tournament Team, TopDrawerSoccer.com Team of the Week and Soccer America Team of the Week accolades after scoring three goals against Marquette and San Diego during the Duke Nike Classic.
Kershner received the vote of captain as she enters her junior campaign with the Blue Devils. A product of Palo Alto, Calif., Kershner saw action in 15 matches last season in the net, while starting 11. The 5-11 goalkeeper posted three shutouts and a 1.68 goals-against average. She registered shutout wins versus 12th-ranked Texas A&M, New Mexico and Miami.
After missing most of her junior season with injuries, Williford enters her final year at Duke. She has seen action in 23 career matches on the defensive end and started five of her six matches played in 2013. Williford, who is out of Boerne, Texas, returns as one of the most experienced defenders on the squad.
“Our senior class always forms a committee and we will join that committee with our captains this year and also one representative from each class to be our leadership committee as we move forward to discuss things that take place on the field and things that take place off of the field,” commented Church. “These three were voted by their peers and it’s a great vote of confidence in these three. The coaches are very confident that they’ll be able to lead us through the 2014 soccer season.”
The Blue Devils return seven starters and 21 letterwinners from a 2013 team that recorded a 9-9-6 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight for the third straight year and the fifth time in the past seven years.
“We just completed our 13th full year here at Duke and I think the spring time was probably in our top three, if not our top spring that we just finished,” said Church. “I really take my hat off to the young ladies. Every activity we had – we put a lot of emphasis on weightlifting, speed and agility and technical work. Sometimes in the spring teams just try and get through those activities and not get themselves better. This group was really focused, led by our whole senior class. They were great leaders and set great examples.”
The Blue Devils also welcome in the No. 2 overall recruiting class in the nation. Returning starters include Kelly Cobb (7 goals, 17 points), Lizzy Raben (23 starts), Toni Payne (3 goals, 5 assists), Kara Wilson (13 starts), Christina Gibbons (24 starts), Meghan Thomas (13 starts) and Doria (returning from torn ACL). Duke also returns four student-athletes that started at least one match a year ago – Malinda Allen, Kershner, Rebecca Quinn and Williford.
“I thought we came together as a group,” commented Church. “Obviously, we lost a lot of talented soccer players that are going to graduate this May, but our group looked at it as an opportunity to step on the field. They worked extremely hard, played hard and trained hard in sessions and in the weight room. I thought we really got better. Now we come to the unique part of the season where we have to release them and they’re on their own for three months until we come back in early August. They’re going to work hard in the summer because we have a short period before training camp and the preseason. They know how difficult our schedule is from day one all the way through. We’re really, really excited as a coaching staff to see this 2014 team.”