DURHAM, N.C. – Duke women’s soccer head coach Robbie Church released the Blue Devils’ 2016 schedule Thursday, which includes matches against nine squads who advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season and six games against teams who ended the 2015 season ranked in the top-20 of the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll.
“We’re very happy with the schedule,” commented Church. “In the non-conference part, we’ve really stepped out. We are going to different parts of the country as we return to Arkansas and then we also have two quality tournaments at UNC and then our own Duke Nike Classic.”
The Blue Devils return 10 starters from last season and 20 letterwinners from a 2015 team that advanced to the NCAA College Cup for the third time in school history. Duke totaled a 14-6-5 overall record, including an 8-2-2 record over its final 12 matches. The Blue Devils will also welcome the fourth-ranked recruiting class in the nation.
Prior to opening the regular season, Duke will feature an exhibition contest against Missouri in Durham, N.C., Thursday, Aug. 11 at 5 p.m.
Duke kicks off the 2016 slate in the annual UNC Nike Classic in Chapel Hill, N.C., against Wofford Friday, Aug. 19, followed by Central Florida Aug. 21 to close the weekend. The Blue Devils will continue on the road at Arkansas Friday, Aug. 26, before returning back to Durham.
In the home opener Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m., Duke will welcome Coastal Carolina to Koskinen Stadium.
The Blue Devils will then host their annual Duke Nike Classic Sept. 2 and 4 with Minnesota, Villanova and North Carolina. In a new twist this season, Duke will face arch-rival North Carolina Friday evening at 7:30 p.m., following Villanova versus Minnesota.
“Very unique in our Duke Nike Classic this season, we’re going to play North Carolina, because this is the year we don’t play them in the ACC,” said Church. “We’ll play the Tar Heels on Friday night, which should add a lot of excitement to our schedule and to our Nike Classic.”
With the new rotations of the ACC regular seasons, Duke and North Carolina were not scheduled to play. The squads will compete in a non-conference match to keep the rivalry going.
Sunday’s action will feature the Tar Heels versus Villanova and the Blue Devils against the Gophers at 12/2:30 p.m.
Duke will close non-conference play against West Virginia and High Point, Sept. 9 and 11, respectively, in Durham, N.C. West Virginia finished last season ranked No. 7 nationally.
“In the last weekend before we start ACC play, we will begin a home and home series with West Virginia University, who should be a top five team in the nation this year,” said Church. “We’ve had great games with them in the past and we’re looking forward to playing them again.”
The team will then open ACC action with Boston College at home Saturday, Sept. 17 at 7 p.m., followed by another home contest versus Louisville Sept. 22. The Blue Devils feature seven straight home matches from Aug. 28 through Sept. 22.
Duke will then go on the road for five out of the next seven matches at Virginia Tech (Sept. 25), Wake Forest (Oct. 6), NC State (Oct. 9), Florida State (Oct. 20) and Pittsburgh (Oct. 23). The Blue Devils also feature home matches against Syracuse (Oct. 2) and Virginia (Oct. 15) before closing the regular season with Clemson Thursday, Oct. 27 in Durham, N.C.
“Of course the last part of the schedule is the ACC portion, which we always look forward to,” commented Church. “We have some great home games. A couple of unique things are two Saturday night contests at home. Boston College will be our opening league game on a Saturday evening and then perennial power Virginia will be coming in on a Saturday night as well.”
The Blue Devils are excited to have three Saturday evening matches for the first time in 2015 – Sept. 17 (Boston College), Oct. 9 (NC State) and Oct. 15 (Virginia).
Returning starters for the Blue Devils in 2016 are Christina Gibbons, Rebecca Quinn, Morgan Reid, Lizzy Raben, Taylor Racioppi, Ashton Miller, Imani Dorsey, Toni Payne, Kayla McCoy and EJ Proctor. Duke also features nine letterwinners back that saw extensive action in 2015 – Casey Martinez, Chelsea Burns, Malinda Allen, Kat McDonald, Krysia Sikora, Anna Munro,Schuyler DeBree, Mary Love Taylor and Mary Elizabeth Bender.