After falling behind 4-2 in the NCAA Tournament’s second round, the Blue Devils locked down on defense to hold Navy scoreless the next 41 minutes and pull away for the win.
Holding the nation’s leader in points, Jasmine DePompeo, to no goals on seven shots and just one assist for the entire game, Duke (14-5) knocked off the eighth-seeded Midshipmen (19-2) at Annapolis, Md. Sunday afternoon to earn a spot in the quarterfinals and a rematch against top-seeded Maryland.
“We made small adjustments after the first couple goals, and I felt like once we did that we really disrupted Navy’s rhythm and that was our goal,” Blue Devil head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “[Our goal] wasn’t just to completely shut them down but take them out of what they do, and I thought our kids were very successful at that.”
Navy had entered Sunday’s contest with the nation’s 11th-best scoring offense and just one loss to its name. Junior Aimee Genarro opened the scoring for the Midshipmen after they won the draw, and after playing a little more than ten minutes, Navy had built a two-goal advantage.
After that opening run, however, Navy could not crack the Duke defense. The Midshipmen's top three scorers—Genarro, DePompeo and sophomore Loren Generi—did not score the rest of the game and finished with two goals combined on 15 total shots.
“Once we got into our rhythm, our defenders took away what their girls wanted,” Blue Devil goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea said.
Duryea racked up 10 saves on the afternoon, but her save total came in part due to how Duke’s defense prevented Navy’s attackers from getting their ideal shots off.
“When you take a team that’s very set in what they like to do and kids are in their set roles, there’s definitely got to be a level of frustration that builds up,” Kimel said. “Part of what we did for Kelsey was after we made a couple of small adjustments we gave her the shots she could take.”
Despite recording 27 fouls and giving up six free-position attempts, the Blue Devils were able to hold Navy off on four of those eight-meter attempts.
The Duke defense also won the ground ball battle 13-11 and cleared successfully on each of their 15 attempts, feeding the Blue Devils’ 7-0 scoring run.
Duke first took the lead at the 11:46 mark in the first half thanks in part to two turnovers caused by senior defender Mie Graham, and the Blue Devils continued to extend their lead through the break.
“Today has been the most rhythmic and transition-oriented offense that we’ve felt in a while,” sophomore Taylor Trimble said. “That’s been our focus for the past few weeks, just really being confident with the ball, [carrying] strong with the ball, going back to basics. Just working on that for the past few weeks has really come together for us.”
Trimble, the team’s second-leading scorer behind injured senior Makenzie Hommel, scored three times during Duke’s run and now has 36 goals on the season.
Freshman Kelci Smesko also notched three goals, to reach 29 on the season, and added two assists as the Blue Devils continue to play without 20-goal scorers Hommel and sophomore Brigid Smith.
“You want people stepping up for you and that’s what we have right now,” Kimel said.