Duke women's lacrosse overcomes early deficit to best Louisville
It will take more than a four-point deficit to shake the sixth-best team in the country.
Louisville jumped out to a 4-0 lead in its season-opener against No. 6 Duke, but the Cardinals could not fend off a Blue Devil comeback. Duke knocked off Louisville 14-11 Sunday at Koskinen Stadium in the first-ever matchup between the two teams.
“We felt pretty prepared coming into the game,” head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “When you’re someone’s first game, it can be challenging, so I thought we did a good job with that.”
Duke (2-0) trailed for more than 20 minutes of play until back-to-back unassisted goals by senior Kerrin Maurer gave the Blue Devils the lead. Carrying the ball behind the goal and around the crease, Maurer edged two shots past defenders within a minute to bring the score to 6-5. Another goal by Maurer and a second by teammate Sydney Peterson gave Duke an 8-6 lead at halftime.
“You kind of have to have a short memory,” Peterson said. “Yeah, they just scored, but you have to just go to the next draw, be ready, and take it to them, and we did a good job of coming back.”
After the Blue Devils established the lead, they had to hold onto it tightly, never leading by more than three goals in the game. Louisville (0-1) fired 27 shots at the Duke defense, which answered with key defensive stops and 11 saves from sophomore goalie Kelsey Duryea.
“The biggest thing is that I think that at least three or four of those [early] goals were free position goals,” Kimel said. “You can’t be not marking someone within three seconds, and that’s what we were getting called for, and so that is a pretty easy adjustment… and so they did that and obviously that wasn’t a problem.”
The Blue Devil attack found ways to capitalize on the teams’ defensive stops Maurer dominated the scoring effort, netting her 11th goal in just two games with just more than four minutes left to play. But the Duke offense relied on more than one attacker, spreading its 14 goals across seven different players.
“I think it really helps, especially on the scouting reports for other teams,” said Peterson when asked about her scoring team’s balance. “They have a really hard time scouting every single one of the seven of us on attack, so it helps to be more well-rounded, and if Kerrin’s face guarded, we can get it to other players and keep the scoring going.”
Louisville kept the contest close, led by senior Nikki Boltja, who finished with five goals and an assist. At the beginning of the second half, Boltja and teammate Anna Kopecka answered an early second-half Duke goal with two of their own to make it 9-8. Converting a free position shot three minutes later, the Cardinals tied the score at 10-10 to finish off a 4-1 second-half run.
“We knew Louisville was a really tough team. I mean we know they’re really well conditioned, so we just tried to run them as hard as we could,” Peterson said. “I think we’re not so much a ‘rah-rah’ team. We’re very much more composed, which I think helped us at the end, especially in this close game.”
Trading possessions but maintaining field position, the Blue Devils pulled ahead 11-10 with a goal from junior Erin Tenneson. Scooping the ball out of a scrum in front of the crease, Tenneson reached the ball over the heads of both teammates and opponents and directed her shot straight to the middle of the goal. From there, Duke dictated play until time expired, tacking on three more goals to seal the victory.
“We have a veteran team, and I think a veteran team should be able to come out against another top opponent and perform,” Kimel said. “I was proud of our girls after timeouts. We made good adjustments on the draw, good adjustments on the offense, good adjustments defensively—we should be able to do that because we’re not a bunch of youngsters.”
The Blue Devil squad will travel to Virginia to face Richmond and William & Mary on a weekend road trip. Neither team is ranked, but both programs have beaten Duke in the teams’ matchup history.
“When we play them early, they always get up for us. I think that’s [something] our girls are used to—when we play another team, everybody gets up for Duke, and we’ll expect a great effort from both of those teams,” Kimel said. “Having two games under our belt, we should be well positioned to go in there and play well.”