Devils Soccer Focused On Winning

Duke Men's Soccer started the season without being ranked in the Top 20 nationally. The Devils then went on to rattle off 11 straight wins and make a steady climb to #1 in the country after a thrilling win over rival North Carolina in front of over 6,000 fans at home.

Senior Nigi Adogwa finished the game winner with 1:15 left on the clock. "You can't put a price on that sort of goal, the crowd was crazy and I didn't know how I should celebrate, I thought about getting naked," joked the gregarious forward.

Head Coach John Rennie, who is in his 26th year at Duke has already won a National Championship in 1986 at Duke and currently ranks 3rd with 407 career wins, 363 of those came at Duke. With that kind of resume, it's no wonger that Rennie has his team focused on each opponent without looking past anyone.

Duke has found success this season by wearing down their opponents with hustle and hard nosed soccer, and by getting more shots off then their opponent has consistently, which obviously provides more scoring opportunities.

The Devils did not drop a game until Virginia Tech came to Durham last Friday night and shocked the Blue Devils 1-0. Duke, who was coming off an emotional win over North Carolina, being ranked #1 nationally for the first time all season and having just finished mid-term exams managed to get 24 shots on goal against Tech. Tech only managed six shots but put one of them in.

The Devils would rebound just four days later with a 4-0 win over Georgia State in Durham to leave them at 12-1 on the year with five games left before the ACC and NCAA Tournaments. Coach Rennie was extremely pleased with how his team rebounded and put together a complete effort against their overmatched foe.

"We played extremely well, and I don't think we did much wrong. We did not score in the first half and we did not get as many shots as we would have liked but we shut them down very well. The first half of the last two games have not been what we wanted, but the guys were ready tonight."

"We responded very well to the loss. We understand in this game that not everything goes your way all the time, but I am very happy with the intensity, effort and enthusiasm this team bounced back with."

Rennie went on to say that other than continuing to get junior Midfielder Blake Camp more involved with the offensive attack there is little changing that needs to happen other than just continuing to be aggressive and improve every game.

Sophomore Kyle Helton pointed to a return to basics in getting back on the winning path after Duke's win over Georgia State.

"We didn't play all that poorly in the Virginia Tech game, but a lot of things just didn't go our way. Today we just wanted to make sure we were staying focused defensively because when we do that the goals will come."

Undoubtedly the theme of this year's Duke Men's Soccer team is that they are taking their success one game at a time.

"We want to win the next game" Rennie stated with authority. "This is a young team getting better and as long as we do that we will be fine. Our focus is on our next game, it is a conference game within our region against a local rival and a huge game at N.C State. It will be an absolute war!"

Just like the man who has steered this ship for 26 years, the players understand that their success will come on a game to game basis. Helton echoed his coach's sentiments when asked about a National Championship by quickly stating that "We just want to focus on our next opponent which is N.C. State on Sunday." As did Senior Nigi Adogwa "I think the next game is N.C. State and we have to focus on them. It is too far ahead to start saying such things." Even the freshman on this young team understand the message, "Rankings don't mean anything, we just have to take things one game at a time" added freshman Tim Jepson.

Jepson wears a black arm band with "Chad" in white letters during all games to honor a deceased friend who he lost when he was in 8th grade. The armband often mistakenly identifies the freshman as a captain from afar.

"I carry him everywhere I go and in every game I play I keep the armband on," said Jepson.

The number one national ranking was a thrill for Duke but not something they overly pondered.

"Honestly coach mentioned our ranking when we snuck into the Top 20, but that was the last time it has come up. We don't talk about that stuff because we have a game on Wednesday and another one on Saturday and talking about rankings takes away from our concentration. Coach Rennie is never satisfied and he is always pushing us to improve."

Senior Nigi Adogwa feels the key is waking up early in games.

"If we wake up early and stay focused on the game we will be fine. The last three games we have woken up late and only had strong second halves. If we wake up early we can put away a lot of teams."

With each Blue Devil win Koskinen Stadium gets more packed for games. For veteran Coach Rennie, the large crowds simply signify a return to the past.

"We are getting back to normal and packed with fans the way it had been for twenty some years. People who come to see our team like our team and we have some exciting players out there and we are winning. People want to come out and see a good team."

Sophomore defender Kyle Helton also pointed out how "awesome it is to play in front of a capacity crowd."

Koskinen Stadium is currently under construction in some areas as restrooms, concession stands and new locker rooms are being built in the midst of this season. At this point in construction what appears to be an overhead viewing deck is also in the works. Coach Rennie added his excitement about the changes.

"Once these changes are complete people will really appreciate what the additions mean to everybody. It will be a lot more comfortable and a lot more enjoyable. It is a shame right now we just have to play our season through construction."

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