The independent news organization of Duke University

Wildcats hand Duke worst loss in 5 years

Saturday afternoon was a humbling experience for the Blue Devils.

As No. 4 Duke (10-2) plodded off the field and into the locker room after being trounced 17-5 by No. 1 Northwestern (8-1) in Evanston, Ill., the team knew head coach Kerstin Kimel was not happy with its performance.

As the Blue Devils sat in a tense locker room, Kimel did not explode into a tirade. She really did not say anything at all. She reminded her team of the one thing that can sting more than being chastised.

"After the game, silence was our punishment," senior attack Kristen Waagbo said. "She knew we were all disappointed in ourselves and embarrassed by the game."

Coming off impressive wins on the road against then-No. 4 Virginia and No. 10 Notre Dame, Duke had every reason to be confident going into the contest against the perennially-dominant Wildcats.

After losing to Duke 16-10 in the regular season in 2006, Northwestern took away Duke's shot at a National Championship, prevailing in an 11-10 overtime win in an incredibly close Final Four contest.

But Northwestern simply blindsided the Blue Devils in Saturday's match.

"This was our worst game all year," Waagbo said.

In all facets of the game, the Blue Devils were manhandled by Northwestern, which out-shot Duke 28-13 throughout the contest and forced 20 turnovers. Before Saturday, Duke was averaging more than 37 shots and only 14 turnovers per game.

The first goal of the game came just 38 seconds in, when Blue Devil attack Caroline Cryer tucked the ball in the net for her 42nd goal of the season. Considering that Duke has had trouble this season with playing at a high level from the beginning of the game, Cryer's goal seemed like the start of something positive.

But Duke registered only five more shots on net in the first half and went into halftime down 9-4. Last weekend against Virginia, the Blue Devils also finished the opening period with a five-goal deficit but were able to come back and secure a win. So there was reason to believe that Duke could respond similarly to such adversity against the Wildcats.

Northwestern wasted no time in erasing that hope, however. Two goals in the opening 2:02 of the second half put the game out of the Blue Devils' reach.

"It kind of just snowballed and it was just hard to come back from it, just not playing hard, not playing like we know how to play," junior Allie Johnson said. "[Northwestern] set the pace of the game."

The Blue Devils' offensive style is to coordinate their attack by holding the ball behind the opposing team's net, passing the ball around the perimeter and methodically breaking down the opposing defense. But when the Wildcat defense pressed Duke's players behind the goal, the Blue Devils struggled to keep the offense in sync and maintain possession.

"The whole game on the offensive end they were pressuring us out, and we weren't handling the ball with confidence, which forced a lot of turnovers," Waagbo said. "We weren't able to get into our offense or get into a groove."

After halftime, Duke's answer to Northwestern's consistently productive offense was just a single goal, and the game ended with a 6-0 Wildcat run.

For Duke, a team with legitimate national championship aspirations, Saturday's loss was certainly humbling, but the players maintained it was an anomaly.

"We just have to hold ourselves to the standard that this will never, ever happen to us ever again," Waagbo said. "I'm glad we got it out of our system."


Share and discuss “Wildcats hand Duke worst loss in 5 years” on social media.