Following Virginia field hockey’s recent losses to North Carolina and Louisville, the team travels to Durham, N.C. to face Duke, who are coming off of its first win of this shortened season — a 2-0 victory over Wake Forest on Sunday.
The Cavaliers (3-5, 2-2 ACC) will look to build on improvements from earlier this season, despite a four-game losing streak and an unfortunate, last-second 2-1 defeat to Louisville Oct. 24. Before facing off against ACC powerhouses North Carolina and Louisville, however, the Cavaliers put up three impressive wins, including a 3-2 double-overtime victory over Syracuse.
As for the Blue Devils (1-6, 0-4 ACC), the victory against Wake Forest was a much-needed win after six straight losses, including three consecutive games decided by just one goal each. While Duke has shown potential and signs of being a high-caliber team — as evidenced by its high-scoring affair with reigning national champion North Carolina Oct. 18 — the Blue Devils just haven’t found a game-winning formula until the match against the Demon Deacons.
The Cavaliers’ and Blue Devils’ strong 2019 seasons — finishing second and eighth in the national rankings respectively — are testaments to the talent on both teams. This season, however, has been a different story for both Virginia and Duke, who currently sit at a mediocre fourth and eighth respectively in the ACC standings.
While Virginia has maintained a strong defensive back line, led by junior goalkeeper Lauren Hausheer and sophomore goalkeeper Taylor Henriksen, the Cavaliers’ offense has struggled to finish goal-scoring opportunities. This inconsistency has characterized Virginia’s discouraging four-game losing skid.
In their first game against Louisville, the Cavaliers logged the same amount of shots as the Cardinals,13, but ultimately fell 5-2. Due to Virginia’s inability to convert on shots, the final scores of its most recent games do not paint an accurate picture of its gameplay. In order to close out the season on a high note Saturday, Virginia’s game plan will have to focus on coming out of the gate with more energy and assertiveness on the offensive side to capitalize on its chances and not fall behind early.
On the heels of four tough losses, Virginia will look to redefine its place in the ACC standings and earn a victory this weekend as the Cavaliers head into the ACC Championship — which will start Nov. 5 in Durham, N.C. and finish Nov. 8 — looking for its first title since 2016.
The last time the Cavaliers faced the Blue Devils, in last year’s ACC Tournament Quarterfinals, Virginia was able to pull off a hard-fought, chaotic 2-1 victory following strong play from now-sophomore back Cato Guesgens. This matchup was the second time the two teams faced each other last season, with the Cavaliers winning the first game in dramatic fashion as well, 3-2, in overtime. The looming ACC Championship start date, coupled with the recent history between Virginia and Duke, should bring excitement and intensity to Saturday’s game.
Players to Watch
Virginia sophomore striker Laura Janssen has been on a scoring tear as of late, notching goals for the Cavaliers in three of their last four games, while junior back Amber Ezechiels will look to repeat an impressive two-goal performance from an earlier game against Syracuse. Both Janssen and Ezechiels will try to revitalize an offense that has looked ineffective recently and hope that it can score enough against a Duke team that jumped at every opportunity against Wake Forest.
On the Blue Devils’ side of the ball, joint-leading goal scorers senior back Lexi Davidson and sophomore striker Hannah Miller — who is also leading the team in assists — will look to cut open the strong Virginia defense.
The Cavaliers and Blue Devils will face-off at 1 p.m. on Williams Field at Jack Katz Stadium on Saturday.