Duke women's lacrosse downs Notre Dame, secures spot in NCAA quarterfinalsOn a day where the majority of Maddy Morrissey's classmates were back in Durham for the graduation ceremony, the senior midfielder still managed to make Sunday a day to remember.
Morrissey led the attack as Duke managed to secure its revenge against Notre Dame Sunday, leading the ninth-ranked Blue Devils to a 10-8 victory against the No. 14 Fighting Irish at Arlotta Stadium in South Bend, Ind. The win secures Duke's spot in the NCAA Championship quarterfinals for the 10th consecutive year.
"It's amazing. We get one more week together for sure," Morrissey said. "And we're all graduating tomorrow. So it's really nice and I think everyone realized how important it was, not just for our seniors, but our whole team."
Exactly one month after the 12-10 loss Duke suffered at Notre Dame in ACC play, the Blue Devils seemed to fall into the same scoring slump they had when they only put up three first half goals April 11. But this time, Duke was not alone.
After the two teams traded goals within the first minute of play, both offenses went cold for eight minutes before Notre Dame's Brie Custis found the back of the net. Then, after another eight minute scoreless stretch, it was Duke's Brigid Smith who broke the drought. From that point on, with the game tied at 2, the Blue Devils exacted their game plan—not revenge—against the Fighting Irish.
"We try not to use the word revenge because that's focused on them," Morrissey said. "We focused on us and I think we were more adaptable this game."
Though the two teams took the same number of shots—seven—in the first 20 minutes, Duke found more success after an adjustment during an early timeout, as the Blue Devils would go on a run following an adjustment made during an early timeout.
“We started off a little slow, and I thought that we did a good job of collecting ourselves on a timeout,” Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “We were having, in my opinion, too many turnovers between the 30s. Our offense just needed to settle in and get used to the defensive pressure. Once they did, we were a lot more comfortable.”
In the final 12 minutes of the first half, Duke rattled off two unanswered goals by Morrissey and Kerrin Maurer that would go on to be the deciding factor in the game, as the Blue Devils would not relinquish the lead—then 4-2—for the remainder of the contest.
Duke extended its streak of unanswered goals to five in the second half as Maurer netted a pair in the opening five minutes to push the lead to four and push her season goal total to a team-leading 55.
But on this day it was Morrissey who was the catalyst on offense for the Blue Devils, as she had a hand in more than half of their goals scored Sunday afternoon. The Skaneateles, N.Y., native registered four goals and two assists for a career-high six points and seemed to deliver when Duke needed her most.
She found the back of the net in the opening minute to keep the Blue Devils tied with the Fighting Irish at 1-1 and pushed the lead out of reach in the final five minutes after Notre Dame had reeled off three straight goals and whittled the Duke lead down to 7-8. With 4:50 left to play, she scored an unassisted goal to push the lead back to two and take the momentum away from the home team.
But the game was not all about the offense. On the defensive side of the ball, Duke played one of its most complete games of the season, holding a Notre Dame offense that averages 12.05 goals per game well below its average.
“Our defense is playing really strong right now,” Kimel. “I’m so proud of how well they operated as a unit ... We knew the tougher team was going to prevail, and that was us today. I’m just really proud of our team.”
The Blue Devils will travel to College Park, Md., to take on top-seeded Maryland next weekend.