Peter Koutroumpis – firstname.lastname@example.org
DURHAM, N.C. – The unseeded Duke Blue Devils will face the top-seeded Maryland Terrapins on their home turf in the 2014 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament quarterfinal at the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex in College Park, Md. on Saturday.
The two teams are not strangers to one another as it will be the 28th overall and second meeting this season between them.
As the lone unseeded squad amongst the tournament’s remaining eight, the Blue Devils enter a Saturday quarterfinal game for the 10th straight year, one of only three teams in the country to do so, next to Northwestern and North Carolina.
It seems with that type of record in postseason play, Duke is far from being an underdog, but the Blue Devils’ inconsistent results, sitting with an 11-7 overall record, doesn’t necessarily show where the team’s performance level is at currently.
“Our team has gone through so much with winning, losing, going into overtime, and learning how to win games like that,” defender and draw control specialist Taylor Virden said.
“We’re just focused on what we’ve been through and how we can use that to propel us through the quarterfinals.”
Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel knows what her team is capable of doing in tournament play, regardless of where it started.
“We didn’t really look at whether we’re seeded or not,” Kimel said.
“We felt like the 6, 7, 8 seeds in the tournament, we’re all ACC teams and we’re all within one or two goals of beating each other, so for us the seeding issue, whether we’re seeded or not, has no relevance. We just kind of looked at our path and we were excited that we got the draw that we have.”
Though the Terps (20-1) won the regular-season matchup 19-10 back on Mar. 1, Kimel said her team needed to work on aspects of the offense that weren’t there back then, but are now.
“We weren’t taking good care of the ball, so I felt like we righted that ship.”
However, just as they made adjustments at one end of the field, the Blue Devils found problems with their defense and then with their draw controls.
They eventually improved in all areas, but the results didn’t clearly surface as they lost three of their last four games before NCAA postseason play.
The adjustments on the offense allowed the team’s top scorer, attack Kerrin Maurer (25 goals, 24 assists), to stay on her current 24-game point-scoring streak and has allowed Duke to make the best of earning a bid into the Tournament as wins over unseeded Stanford (13-8) and eighth-seeded Notre Dame (10-8) last weekend gave them another chance to beat the Terps.
“I think we just need to play our game,” Maurer said.
“We know what we have to face on our end. We know what Maryland’s gonna’ throw at us, so I think it’s just more of we need to fix what we need to do and focus on ourselves, and implement our game plan. If we try hard and we execute the game plan that we have, we’ll be fine.”
Playing on Maryland’s field, a more traditional carpet-like surface, will play to the Terps favor according to Kimel, but her team has prepared accordingly for that by working on its ball possession.
“We’re going to play on artificial turf and that creates a different bounce and the way the ball moves is different,” she said.
“It (the field) is also a kind of short and narrow field, so our loose ball game has to be great this weekend.”
Regardless of the conditions, Maurer and her teammates know the type of game that awaits them against the top-ranked team in the country.
“It’s do or die,” Maurer said.