Coming into the 2013 season, Duke lost three 100-point scorers to graduation. Behind senior Makenzie Hommel’s 13 total goals this season, though, the Blue Devil offense hasn’t missed a beat.
Averaging 18.3 goals per game so far, No. 7 Duke (4-0) powered past Richmond and William & Mary at Koskinen Stadium this weekend with Hommel leading the way in both games.
“I think Makenzie stepped up big-time this year,” defender Taylor Virden said. “She’s been an amazing leader on attack. A senior leader on attack. And I think that she’s the reason why our attack has so much momentum and composure.”
With three seasons of experience, Hommel entered her final year as Duke’s active leader in goals with 48 in her career, including 25 last season.
A high hamstring injury sustained last fall, however, required the attacker to rehab during winter break and caused her some difficulties in preseason training. “We actually sat down and showed her a little film of herself and said, ‘Is this really what you’re capable of doing?’” head coach Kirsten Kimel said. “And she was just like kind of moving slow, and I don’t think it was necessarily intentional. I just think it was a lapse from being out.”
Through four games this season, Hommel has been at the top of her game. Last weekend, she opened the season with a hat trick, then notched two more goals in a 23-0 blowout of Presbyterian.
She also has taken full ownership of her role as a leader on a young team.
“She’s a really good role model for the rest of us because she’s the only senior out there,” sophomore attacker Brigid Smith said. “She directs us where to go. She helps us if we’re having a tough day, has really good advice, and is always someone we can count on if we need a goal.”
With Richmond and William & Mary on the slate last weekend, Hommel had the opportunity to play the two teams she had her best performances against last year.
At William & Mary, she registered six points and against Richmond she scored a hat trick as well.
Against Richmond Friday though, the Blue Devil offense struggled to get going, failing to score in the first 10 minutes. Duke then scored five times in the next 10 minutes, highlighted by two from Hommel.
“As a unit, we just took some time in the first half to get our groove going,” Hommel said. “We were a little bit slow but the second half, we turned around, we went hard, we dodged hard, and we were able to create looks off going hard.”
The senior struck again just when the Blue Devils needed it. After the Spiders had drawn within one goal in the final five minutes of the first period, Hommel slotted her third goal of the game to give Duke some breathing room.
“We were struggling to score in the first half, we just weren’t shooting well,” Kimel said. “I thought we had good looks and good takes, but I thought Makenzie did a great job of attacking from a different angle that we weren’t pressing from at any other point, so that’s actually where we gained momentum.”
Although experience plays a large part in Hommel’s success thus far, the attacker credits new assistant coach Kirsten Waagbo—Duke’s all-time assists leader—for her development as a scorer.
“She’s very smart. She brings a whole new experience to us,” Hommel said. “She’s helped me grow as a player in my last year, and I’m thankful for that.”
Hommel finished the game against Richmond with a career-high five goals and continued her scoring run when the Blue Devils took on William & Mary Sunday.
She opened the scoring just 34 seconds into the match, and after the Tribe took a two-goal lead, Hommel broke the tie midway through Duke’s 9-0 run.
Then, early in the second half, William & Mary scored three in a row to cut the Blue Devil lead in half, forcing Kimel to call a timeout. Less than 15 seconds after the break, Hommel had an answer, cutting in from the right wing and scoring on a low shot.
“When we prepare for teams we look for different places where we can exploit teams’ defenses,” Kimel said. “She did a great job of paying attention to those things.... I was very pleased that as a senior she stepped up in a really good, opportune moment.”
Putting a stop to the Tribe’s momentum, Hommel’s goal regained control for Duke, allowing the Blue Devils to cruise to a seven-goal win and keep their undefeated record.
“She comes up big when we need her,” Virden said.