Area men’s soccer teams dive into the ACC portion of their schedules Friday night, and nobody faces a bigger task than unbeaten Duke.
The Blue Devils are off to their best start since 2009 when they also opened 4-0, but they will put their undefeated record on the line against Virginia (2-0-1), the reigning NCAA champion ranked No. 2 or No. 5 in the national polls.
N.C. State (3-1) also opens ACC play at home against Boston College, while No. 3 North Carolina (3-0-1) visits Virginia Tech (2-0-1). All three games start at 7 p.m.
Duke will hold a reunion of soccer alumni at Koskinen Stadium when it plays the Cavaliers, who haven’t lost to Duke since 2009. A win over UVa would stamp the Blue Devils as ACC contenders.
“From what I’ve seen so far, they’re continuing their defensive approach of protecting their final third,” Duke coach John Kerr said of UVa. “They’ll try to beat us on the counterattack. We need to be precise in that final third. It’s the best team we’ve seen so far.”
“UVa is ranked No. 2 in the country,” said sophomore forward Jeremy Ebobisse, who leads Duke in scoring with four goals and two assists. “That obviously gets us up for that game. Last year we took down UNC when they were No. 1.”
Full circle: One player that Duke won’t have to worry about is senior forward Darius Madison, who was dismissed from the Virginia team four days before the Cavaliers opened their season for unspecified violations of team rules. But it didn’t take Madison long to find a new home.
He transferred to Maryland-Baltimore County, and if that rings a bell, here’s why. Madison’s goal in last year’s College Cup semifinal sent UVa over UMBC 1-0 at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Cavaliers then defeated UCLA on penalty kicks in the championship game to claim their seventh NCAA soccer title.
UMBC (3-0-1), despite returning only three starters, is ranked 11th, and Madison has totaled three goals and an assist in four matches, two of them starts. He scored 12 goals in his UVa career.
Familiar faces: Last weekend in the Duke Nike Classic, two former Tar Heels took the field for Southern California, Reilly Parker and Amanda Rooney. Parker transferred two years ago, and Rooney left after last season.
On Sunday, when UCLA visits Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels will see another familiar face in Amber Munerlyn, who was one of their top scorers a year ago before joining the Bruins.
“It was great seeing Reilly and Amanda play, and we look forward to seeing Amber Munerlyn when we play UCLA,” UNC women’s coach Anson Dorrance said.
A bigger concern for Dorrance will be the health of forward Alexa Newfield. The sixth-year senior has had three knee surgeries in the past three years, resulting in two medical redshirts. She sat out UNC’s 1-1 tie with California last Friday at Duke but played 60 minutes in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Southern Cal.
Dorrance has given no indication how he might manage Newfield’s minutes in the future. No. 4 UNC (5-0-1) plays at Nebraska (3-1) on Friday before returning home for UCLA (2-3).
Streak ends: When No. 16 California poured in three goals Sunday against Duke in a 3-1 win, it marked the end of Blue Devils sophomore goalkeeper EJ Proctor’s shutout streak. Proctor, from Wilson’s Fike High, had not allowed a goal in 405 minutes and 59 seconds, dating to the late minutes of the Blue Devils’ 2-0 season-ending loss at Florida State in 2014. Duke had recorded five clean sheets this season, with Proctor and sophomore Abby Pyne combining on two of the shutouts.
The No. 21 Blue Devils (4-1-1) go on the road at Samford (4-2) on Thursday and LSU (4-0-2) on Sunday.
International update: UNC 2015 grad Boyd Okwuonu started at center back and played 60 minutes for the U.S. U-23 men’s team, which dropped a 1-0 decision in a friendly to England last week. Okwuonu did not play in the 2-0 victory over Qatar on Tuesday as the U.S. wrapped up its training session in England in preparation for Olympic qualifying next month.
UNC freshman midfielder Martin Salas started two of three matches for the U.S. U-20 men’s team that completed play Monday in the Stevan Vilotic-Cele Tournament in Serbia, going 1-2. The U.S. lost to Serbia 3-1 and to France 6-1 but beat Israel 2-0.
Salas will rejoin UNC in time for Friday’s game at Virginia Tech.
Junior forward Gladys Loyas made her first appearance of the season for N.C. State in Sunday’s 3-0 loss to William & Mary, getting 37 minutes of action. She missed the first three games while playing for the Dominican national team in Olympic trials. The Dominican Republic split its two matches and failed to advance to the final round of qualifying.
N.C. State (3-3) hosts UNC Greensboro (1-5) on Thursday and visits Davidson (1-3) on Sunday.