Duke's women's lacrosse team is making headlines-both for earning a trip to the national semifinals and for a quiet show of solidarity that it is reportedly planning for this weekend's Final Four in Boston.
The top-seeded Blue Devils advanced to their second consecutive Final Four to face fourth-seeded Northwestern Friday at 6 p.m., after a 16-6 victory over James Madison last Saturday in the quarterfinals.
During the season's second matchup between the Blue Devils and Wildcats, members of the women's team will sport sweatbands with the word "innocent" on their arms or legs during the game, in reference to the three indicted members of the men's lacrosse team, the Durham Herald-Sun reported Wednesday.
Head coach Kerstin Kimel and members of the team were unavailable for comment Wednesday. John Burness, senior vice president for government and public relations, said the administration would not interfere with any planned act by team members.
"My understanding is that this idea came from the captains of the team," Burness said. "It's the players' choice. When you represent the University you don't necessarily lose rights to free speech."
Senior Associate Director of Athletics Chris Kennedy said the athletic department would defer to the University's public relations office and would not interfere with any potential protest.
Kimel also invited former men's lacrosse coach Mike Pressler, who resigned April 5, to speak to her team after practice Tuesday afternoon.
"We don't get involved whenever a coach brings in someone to talk to their team," Burness said. "The fact that he resigned doesn't not make him an excellent coach on the field. People can be critical but it's within [Kimel's] realm of authority."
Kennedy said Kimel had not asked for permission before inviting Pressler, nor did she need to. Pressler has been in contact with athletic department officials, including Kennedy and Director of Athletics Joe Alleva, and Pressler was in attendance for the women's lacrosse team's win over James Madison Saturday, Kennedy said.
In the game Pressler witnessed, the Blue Devils (18-2) came out slowly, but quickly dispatched of their opponent. After initially struggling against James Madison's (15-5) game plan-which focused on shutting down Duke's top two scorers, Katie Chrest and Kristen Waagbo-the Blue Devils picked up their offensive pace midway through the first half and never looked back.
With Chrest limited to two goals-the team's first and last of the game-and Waagbo held to none, Caroline Cryer scored four goals to pace Duke's attack.
"We're excited to go back," Kimel said of making the national semifinals for the third time. "This has been a great season. It's not over yet."
When the final horn of the James Madison game sounded, the Blue Devils' bench rushed the field to celebrate officially earning a trip to Boston.
"We knew that it was definitely possible with talent we have that we should get there this year," Chrest said. "Obviously it was a season goal but it became more of an expectation."
In the Final Four, Duke will meet a Wildcats squad that it beat handily at home April 7, 16-10. That win snapped Northwestern's 31-game winning streak, which included last year's national championship.
Not only will the Wildcats (18-1) be seeking revenge, but they will also be looking to prove the selection committee wrong. Northwestern was seeded fourth despite being ranked No. 1 at the time in both major polls.
Duke's rematch with Northwestern at 6 p.m. at Boston University's Nickerson Field will be followed by the other semifinal, in which Notre Dame and Dartmouth will square off. Duke won at Dartmouth, 6-4, May 7 and at home against Notre Dame, 11-10, April 9.
"We saw some success against [Northwestern] earlier in the season," Kimel said. "We'll be prepared for a very tough game but we've been in all those situations so many times this year so it's not like we're going to have to increase our level of play significantly."
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