Less than 24 hours after ESPNews reported Fairfield would be facing Duke in the NCAA tournament’s first round, women’s soccer Head Coach Jim O’Brien sat in his office watching film of the Blue Devils’ play in the ACC tournament. But despite what the Stags are up against, the real pressure may be on the Devils.

Fairfield is on a winning streak and has been surprising in ending post-seasons of higher-ranked teams.

The underdog Stags, who are unbeaten in their last six games, have nothing to lose and may even possess a few advantages with game location and scheduling.

These facts might have been on the mind of Duke Head Coach Robbie Church when Duke athletics press release quoted him as saying, “I am not going to look ahead at this time” after learning about the first found match-up Friday at host Yale University in New Haven, Conn.

Fairfield will have had an 11-day break since their last match. But Duke, who just finished their Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championships over the weekend, will have to contest with travel from Durham, N.C. and less than a week of rest and preparation.

“There was a chance for those who were banged up to heal,” said O’Brien. “Duke will leave after classes Wednesday, fly here and get into a hotel. We get to sleep in our beds and make a 30-minute drive.”

Church also recognizes the travel aspect as a possible disadvantage for the Duke team.

“We would have loved to have been hosting and thought we did enough to host…it is a tough bracket and we are going to have to play very well to be able to advance out of it,” he said.

Unlike Church, Fairfield captain Laura Mrowka ’07 does not have a problem with the announcement during Monday’s selection show.

“Playing in Connecticut is more than we could ask for,” said Mrowka, who is from Branford Conn., located just minutes from New Haven. “To be able to play in front of friends and family is a tremendous opportunity and will be an amazing feeling.”

The Stags last played in the NCAA tournament after winning the MAAC title in 1999, and this will be their fourth tournament appearance. Six years ago, they fell to Boston College 4-1 in the first round.

Duke is making its 12th NCAA appearance and is seeded third in its section of the bracket. Duke lost in the ACC semifinals to eventual league champion North Carolina.

The ACC is widely regarded as the premier conference for women’s soccer in the nation with teams such as North Carolina, Boston College, Virginia and Duke. The ACC produced a nation-best seven selections to the College Cup.

The conference in known for its exceptional athletes and fast-paced play. The ball spends more time in the air, but this does not phase O’Brien because he knows how to counter it.

“We need to settle it down… [and] play the ball at our feet,” he said. “We’re an opportunistic team and make things happen from playing defense first. We need to frustrate them.”

O’Brien attributes a lot of the team’s success to a tough conditioning regimen, and feels most of the players’ best play happens toward the ends of games after they wear teams down. The Stags’ exceptional physical conditioning may allow them to frustrate Duke.

The MAAC championship game against Niagara was a prime example of Fairfield’s defensive approach and top-notch conditioning: after going ahead 2-1 with 30 minutes still left to play, the Stags were able hold back their opponent to clinch the title.

If the Stags pull off the upset, which would mark the first NCAA victory in school history, they will advance to the regional quarterfinals and play at 1 p.m. Sunday against the winner of the Yale-Central Connecticut game.

The regional semifinals take plance Nov. 18-20.

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