Last season, Duke won its first-ever regular-season ACC title, but neither Caline McHenry or Lane Fogarty could contribute on the field to the accomplishment because of injuries that forced them to sit out the entire season.
A year later, the defenders have returned to bolster a Blue Devil squad that could capture its second straight regular-season league championship with a victory over Virginia Tech Friday.
“They both have tons of experience that we lacked last year on defense,” head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “Having them back there makes us stronger.”
Through 14 games this season, Duke has done a better job shutting down its opponents than a year ago. The Blue Devils’ 7.85 goals against average is .76 better than in 2004, and they have already surpassed the number of caused turnovers from a year ago.
The two seniors have played no small part in that turnaround.
McHenry missed the 2004 campaign with a right foot injury she suffered in a game against Georgetown in 2003. Although her recovery was longer than the four-to-six months originally expected, McHenry never doubted she would return to the field.
But when Kimel informed her that she was named one of the 18 nominees for the 2005 Tewaaraton Trophy—the player of the year award in women’s lacrosse—the red-shirt senior was surprised.
“It’s very flattering,” McHenry said of the individual honor. “But I came back for a chance at a national championship.”
Her 23 caused turnovers place her second in the ACC behind teammate Rachel Sanford. Kimel called McHenry Duke’s best “shut-down defender” and said McHenry’s return has been crucial to the team’s defensive success, because she has the ability to clamp down on the nation’s best attackers.
Although Lane plays a different role within the defense, her return has made a similar impact.
After tearing her right anterior cruciate ligament during her sophomore season, Lane expected the recovery to take about three months. The initial surgery failed, however, and an MRI revealed two other torn ligaments last fall. The second stint of rehabilitation took nearly a year.
The senior has made an effective comeback and has played in every game this season, starting 11 of them.
Even with the two seniors strengthening the defense, Kimel said that the unit’s performance has been sub-par in recent games. Any trip to Annapolis, Md.—the site of this year’s Final Four—will begin with defense, said Kimel.
“Defense has been our backbone,” Kimel said. “We need to renew focus and get back to basics.”
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