Robbie Church, who enters his 14th season at Duke.DURHAM, N.C. – The 2014 Duke women’s soccer campaign is here and the Blue Devils are set to kick off practice Wednesday morning, under the direction of head coach
The Blue Devils return seven starters and a total of 21 letterwinners off its squad that advanced to the 2013 NCAA Elite Eight for the fifth time out of the last seven years and notched a 9-9-6 overall record.
Duke will feature five days of practice before traveling to Wrightsville Beach, N.C., for team bonding and practice for three days.
The Blue Devils will be led by three captains in 2014 – redshirt senior Gilda Doria, redshirt junior Ali Kershner and senior Tabria Williford – along with five other seniors – Kelly Cobb, Katie Trees, Katy Colas, Meghan Thomas and Anastasia Hunt. Returning starters for the Blue Devils in 2014 include Doria, Cobb, Thomas, Lizzy Raben, Toni Payne, Christina Gibbons and Kara Wilson.
After suffering a torn ACL in the spring of 2013, Doria missed the entire 2013 campaign. A product of West Palm Beach, Fla., Doria has competed in 73 contests over her three years on the pitch, while totaling seven goals, 20 assists and 34 points in the midfield. Duke was also without the services of Cassie Pecht, the 2012 National Freshman of the Year, this past season with a knee injury and the speedy forward/midfielder is expected to return this year.
During the preseason and into the first week of the regular season, Duke will be without the services of Gibbons and sophomore Rebecca Quinn, who will be competing in the U-20 World Cup in Canada from Aug. 5-24 for the United States and Canada, respectively. Quinn started four of seven matches in 2013 for Duke, while suffering multiple injuries that shortened her rookie campaign in the midfield.
On the offensive end, the Blue Devils return only three student-athletes who scored a goal in 2013 – Cobb (7), Payne (3) and Malinda Allen (1). A product of Chugiak, Alaska, Cobb has scored 20 goals and assisted on 16 tallies over her three years with the Blue Devils and enters preseason practice healthy, after dealing with injuries the last two years.
With the return of Doria and Pecht along with the addition of incoming freshmen Imani Dorsey, Ashton Miller, Casey Martinez and Schuyler DeBree, the Blue Devils will have a much different offensive look in 2014. Redshirt junior Audrey Gibson and sophomore Krysia Sikora will also push for playing time as well up front.
The midfield slot is expected to be a combination of Doria, Wilson, Allen, Payne, Pecht, Quinn, Danielle Duhl and others.
On the defensive end, Duke returns Gibbons, Raben and Williford who started for the Blue Devils a year ago. The trio helped lead Duke to seven shutouts in the back. Incoming freshman Morgan Reid along with DeBree are expected to push for playing time in their first year as well.
The goalkeeper position will be a battle between Thomas, Kershner and freshman EJ Proctor. Thomas and Kershner combined for seven shutouts and an 1.37 goals-against average in 2013.
Other returning letterwinners that will see action in 2013 will be Sammie Thomas, Courtney McDaniel, Anastasia Hunt and Kelly McCann. The incoming freshman class, which was ranked No. 2 nationally by TopDrawerSoccer.com, is expected to provide an immediate impact in 2014, Duke graduated one of the top senior classes in school history in 2013 featuring Laura Weinberg, Kim DeCesare, Kaitlyn Kerr, Mollie Pathman, Natasha Anasi and Avery Rape.
Duke will host South Carolina Thursday, Aug. 14 at 7:00 p.m., in an exhibition contest in Durham, N.C., followed by an exhibition match at UNC Wilmington Saturday, Aug. 16 at 6 p.m. The Blue Devils will open the regular season Friday, Aug. 22 at 5:00 p.m., versus Ohio State in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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.