After a busy summer of recruiting, camps and more recruiting, Duke head coach Robbie Church has now begun preparing the Blue Devils for the upcoming season after preseason began last Thursday.
With two practices a day Church is able to run the team through fitness tests, technical work and also allow the players to show their competitive side as part of training. The coach is pleased with his first few days as the team has returned with a high level of fitness and the incoming freshmen have so far got along well with the rest of the team.
This week, the team will travel to Wilmington, N.C., for its preseason training camp away from campus, a tradition that began in former coach Bill Hempen’s days at Duke. The team generally alternates between training at a beach setting or a mountain setting.
This year, however, will be unique in that the Blue Devils will not return to Durham for their first preseason exhibition–instead they will go from the coast to South Carolina immediately.
“It’s great for team bonding,” Church said. “It brings the new players and the old players together.”
Senior Erin Koballa, who is from Wrightsville Beach, N.C., will host some of the players at her home during this trip. The Blue Devils will continue its schedule of two training sessions a day, but will be given one day off in the hopes of bonding as a team. Church hopes the change in environment will allow the team to better prepare for its season opener against William and Mary on August 17.
While preparations have gone on smoothly so far, the team will have many obstacles to face now and as the season progresses, most notably with the absence of Mollie Pathman and Kelly Cobb to the U-20 Women’s World Cup. Pathman and Cobb are leaving this Friday for the tournament in Japan and will miss seven of Duke’s regular season games.
“It opens the door for other players,” Church said. “We’ve got good players who can step in and fill those roles.”
While their absence is an interruption to preparations, Church is looking forward to seeing other players step up, and hopes that Pathman and Cobb will return to Durham better players and ready to start the ACC season.
The roster appears even thinner when factoring in current knee injuries to two incoming freshman and key reserve Alex Straton.
“Even though we have all these players, we have question marks,” Church said as he explained that he may move players around and experiment with their positions. Preseason is a great time to do just that.