Duke women’s soccer faces a winnable path to the NCAA College Cup, set to open tournament against Radford

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Although this year’s Blue Devils may not have been able to match last year’s achievement of securing a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the selection committee has smiled on Duke once again.

The NCAA selection committee awarded Duke the No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament on Monday, giving the Blue Devils home field advantage for at least their first three rounds; if they get past the Sweet 16 while No. 1-seeded Alabama gets upset in an earlier round, they’ll also host the Elite Eight at Koskinen Stadium. Duke (12-4-3, 6-2-2 in the ACC) received the top spot last year and averaged more than 1,600 fans through all four rounds in Durham, despite the last one occurring during the Thanksgiving break. Thank you from the students.

Home field advantage hasn’t really been a demonstrable blessing for the Blue Devils in recent years, as the team boasts a better winning percentage away from home than at home since 2019. However, Duke has a record of 21-1-1 all-time in NCAA Tournament Games at home under head coach Robbie Church, including a breakthrough in penalty kicks. The only loss was last year. season finale upset at the hands of Santa Clara.

“I think with this team, [playing at home]it’s a huge advantage,” Church told The Chronicle. “Because we’ve been on the road a lot. … Since the ninth of October, we have been [on the road] Around a month. We’ve only had one home game in that month. … So I think with this team, being able to come home, establish that is really big.”

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The Blue Devils were safe for a No. 2 seed after leading North Carolina, ranked No. 2 in the poll, to penalties in the semi-finals of the ACC tournament last Thursday. By earning such a high ranking, Duke was able to avoid the other conference powerhouses, including No.1 seeds Florida State and Notre Dame and the Tar Heels, whom he played twice this season. And after having played close to No. 1 seed UCLA in September, the Blue Devils were a natural fit in the Tuscaloosa, Alabama region.

“A very, very strong year for us,” Church said. “We had some ups and downs, but then we played the toughest schedule in the nation. And I think that schedule really paid off for us. So I think that’s right where we thought we would fall.”

Top-seeded Alabama is currently 19-2-1 on the year (10-0 in the SEC), 4.5 complete games better than any season in team history. The Crimson Tide were beaten just once in their regular season (a game in which they outscored Miami 22-3) and were on a 16-game winning streak, in which only four of their wins were decided by a single goal. until the SEC semifinals last Sunday. The team that handed Alabama its second loss of the season? The No. 3 seed from the Tuscaloosa, South Carolina region.

Before Duke can worry about hosting the younger sister of Nicky Chico (a first-year defenseman for the Gamecocks), he has to get through a first-round matchup against Radford on Saturday. The Highlanders were only seeded in third place entering the Big South conference tournament, but managed two wins to secure an automatic bid. The team that Church described as “athletic in its league” is 0-2 against the Blue Devils in the NCAA tournament, having been outscored 10-1. Attacking midfielder Maggie Graham will not be in that game after receiving a red card during Duke’s last game.

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If Duke advances past Radford, it will play the winner of Texas-Texas A&M, a Church matchup called a “spicy one.” The Longhorns are brimming with young talent, but have struggled to put it all together this year, recently failing to convert what should have been wins against Iowa State and West Virginia. Still, Texas has been playing better lately than on a lackluster nonconference slate. The Aggies, on the other hand, have won less than half of their games this season and have only won one of their last four games.

“We are a completely different team from when we played [North] Carolina (September 8), we are a completely different team than we were when we played Virginia for the first time (October 2),” Church said. “Now, you have to dig a little deeper to get to know the other teams we’re going to play against.”

There is a chance the Blue Devils will play an SEC team in three straight rounds en route to the College Cup (Texas A&M, South Carolina, Alabama). That conference, historically in the shadow of the ACC and Pac-12, has been improving in recent years and boasts three top-three seeds in this year’s NCAA tournament. But some have argued that the top teams in the SEC have improved their résumés by beating each other up and still aren’t up to par with the ACC.

To get back into the College Cup, Duke will have to prove that college football is still played in the state of North Carolina.