JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – After a two-game stint in South Atlantic Conference play, which saw the Eagles pick up a pair of victories, the Carson-Newman Eagles return to nonconference action in a midweek showdown against Belmont Abbey.
"They're going to be a very tough opponent," Duffy said. "They're feeling fantastic about themselves coming off a 4-0 win over Limestone (this past) weekend. I know they've their tails up after that win and will be coming here with a lot of confidence looking to get one over."
Carson-Newman has good reason to be feeling good about themselves as well. After knocking off No. 6 Lincoln Memorial last Wednesday, the Eagles (3-2, 2-0 SAC) rode the momentum of defeating a rivalry opponent in a convincing 1-0 victory against Newberry. C-N is now one of three teams in the SAC without a loss in conference.
The Crusaders enter into Wednesday's contest with a 3-2 record overall and a 1-1 record in the Conference Carolinas. They opened the season with a 4-3 victory against USC Aiken and have also racked up wins against Palm Beach Atlantic (1-0) and (football only) SAC member Limestone (4-0). Losses include a 2-0 defeat to UNC Pembroke in a road matchup and a 2-1 home loss to Barton.
Last season, the Crusaders went 13-4-1 (8-3 Carolinas) and advanced all the way to the conference championship before being taken down by Limestone 1-0. They did not participate in the NCAA tournament.
Their top returning scorer is Morgan Patton. A senior forward from Jacksonville, Fla., Patton scored 7 goals (16 points) last year, leading the team in both statistical categories while being nominated as an All-Conference Second Team selection. She has 15 shots on the season thus far.
A whopping 14 players scored at least one goal for Belmont Abbey last year, compared to just 12 for C-N, respectively. So far this year, the spread the ball mentality has continued. Six players have registered goals for the Crusaders, with forwards Goose Andrews, Tatiana Daugherty, Allyson Elliott and Patton all tied for the team lead in goals with two.
With a well-rounded group of forwards, Duffy preached that being able to move quickly and decisively with the ball will be crucial in the game.
"We just have to be on alert," Duffy said. "We have to defend well and transition quickly…When we lose the ball our mindset needs to quickly change to winning back possession and that we're getting in good defensive positions. We just have to make sure that we transition quickly back from attack to defense and not let any of their forwards get on the ball, because any of them are willing and able to put the ball in the back of the net."
Still early on in the season, Duffy has seen improvement as his team continues to refine their game and philosophies on both sides of the pitch. Defensively, C-N's five goals allowed ranks fifth best in the conference, while goalkeeper Jasmine Rizk (Andersonville, Tenn.) also ranks fifth among all qualifying SAC goalies in saves with 24. The middle part of the defensive third has been patrolled by sophomores Beatrice Gards (Stockholm, Sweden) and Jente Kuper (Ottersberg, Germany) who rank one-two in minutes played all season.
Offensively, the efforts of the team have continued to be on display. A 27-shot performance against Newberry led to a variety of scoring opportunities, with 12 shots landing on goal. While both shot totals were season highs, working on setting up higher quality chances with more patience has been stressed in practice leading up to Wednesday's contest.
"We're capable of moving (the ball) very quickly and when we do that we're a very difficult team to stop because we have the ability," Duffy said.
Kickoff from McCown Field between the Eagles and Crusaders is slated for 5 p.m. Part two of the soccer doubleheader concludes when the men's soccer team faces off against King at 7:30 p.m. Both games can be viewed on cneagles.com/live.