UNC is undergoing a massive facilities construction project that’s left the university’s field hockey team without a home field.
So who did the Tar Heels turn to when they needed a place to practice and play? Their biggest rival, of course.
The Blue Devils and the Tar Heels, bitter rivals and national championship contenders, are sharing Duke’s Jack Katz Stadium this season.
And on Friday night, Duke and UNC play against each other – on Duke’s home field – with No. 5 UNC as the home team wearing the home jerseys and No. 2 Duke as the road team in the away jerseys.
“Yeah, that’s kind of weird,” Duke senior back Alyssa Chillano said.
Duke will still get to use its home locker room and stand on the home side of the field, while UNC will use the visitors’ facilities.
The two teams have made what could have been an uncomfortable situation work well.
“We may be competitors,” Duke coach Pam Bustin said. “But we are all in the field hockey family.”
The Tar Heels are glad to be in Durham, considering the alternative. UNC coach Karen Shelton said the next closest facility is at Wake Forest, a 90-minute bus ride away in Winston-Salem.
So Shelton is grateful to Duke for its hospitality during UNC’s one-year wait for its new home stadium to open.
The Tar Heels practice twice a week at Duke in addition to playing home games there. UNC also uses its on-campus Eddie Smith Fieldhouse for some practices.
On the days the Tar Heels practice at Duke, the players and staff ride a bus together to and from Duke with their equipment.
The two campuses are only eight miles apart, but the afternoon traffic can make the commute 30 minutes or so.
“The whole team definitely has less time throughout the day,” UNC senior forward Gab Major said, “which is a little frustrating. But it’s not as bad as I thought it would be.”
Major feels more at home at Duke than the rest of her teammates. She and Chillano are cousins and former teammates at Spring-Ford High School in Royersford, Pa. Friday, they’ll compete against each other in an unusual regular-season game.
“It’s nice being on this field, which is hers, rather than a rent-a-field,” Major said, standing next to Chillano following a practice on Wednesday.
The two rival teams actually haven’t crossed paths much this season. Duke practices in the morning, UNC uses the field in the afternoon.
“The only time we feel the presence of one another is on weekends when we both host home matches,” Bustin said.
That will change on Friday night, of course, when the two teams, among the nation’s best in their sport, occupy the field together.
Duke at UNC
When: 6 p.m. Friday
Where: Jack Katz Stadium, Durham
TV: ACC Network Extra