Hat tricks, unscathed clearing a stellar first half showed why the Blue Devils have championship aspirations. Duke could not have opened its season on a sharper note.
The No. 8 Blue Devils beat Elon 17-8 at Phoenix Rhodes Stadium after outscoring the Phoenix 12-2 in the first half, as nine different players put at least one past first-team All-Atlantic Sun goalkeeper Rachel Ramirez. The victory gave Duke a win in its season opener for the 19th consecutive season.
“Over half our goals were assisted—I think that’s awesome,” head coach Kerstin Kimel told GoDuke.com. “We made it really difficult for them to do anything they wanted…and I think to clear the ball 100 percent, first game of the season, is pretty great.”
The Blue Devils' successful campaign began 40 seconds into the contest with a Katie Trees goal. The senior scored two more after leading the team with four goals in last weekend's exhibition match vs. Towson.
Hayley Shaffer and Brigid Smith followed with goals of their own, and after Molly Garrigan put the Phoenix (1-1) on the scoreboard at the 16:36 mark, the visitors outscored the hosts 9-1 to close out the first half. Smith assisted on four of Duke’s goals, with the last coming off of Taylor Trimble’s stick with just 12 seconds left in the half. Trimble finished the game with a hat trick.
Elon outscored Duke (1-0) in the second half 6-5, with the last two goals coming against freshman goalkeeper Angel Thompson, but the damage had already been done. Duke capitalized off of committing nine fewer fouls, seven more draw controls and 15 more shots in the first half alone.
“The only thing I was dissatisfied with was, I felt like we came out a little slow in the second half,” Kimel said, “That was a real point of emphasis for us, so not to do that was kind of disappointing.”
Among the keys to Duke’s first victory of the season were strong performances by Shaffer and freshman Kyra Harney. The duo each tallied two goals and add to an experienced team that features eight returning starters and 25 returning players.
“I think Kyra Harney is just so composed and confident and smart with the ball,” Kimel said. “I was also really happy that Hayley Shaffer did a great job.”
Another bright spot for the Blue Devils was a defense that held Towson in check the weekend before. The unit features nine freshmen and sophomores who hope to add depth to a defense that finished last season tied for 40th in caused turnovers per game and 49th in scoring defense.
Against Elon and its returning All-Atlantic Sun attacker Sloane Kessler— who was held to two goals and two assists— Duke allowed just 16 shots, caused 12 turnovers and committed only 19 fouls in the contest.
Besides the 40-minute drive separating the schools and two consecutive years of opening against each other, the Elon-Duke connection runs increasingly deep. Phoenix head coach Josh Hexter served as an assistant for Duke and in 2010 rose to associate head coach under Kimel. In addition, 2014 Duke lacrosse graduates Maddy Morrissey and Taylor Virden serve as Elon assistants.
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“The way [Josh] sees the game, you see it in his players,” Kimel said. “I think it’s awesome that Taylor and Maddy Mo are giving back to the game…that they travel over here every day to help this team, a new program that I think has a ton of potential to be a great CAA team.”
Duke plays host to Richmond Friday afternoon at 4 p.m. and Navy Sunday at 1 p.m. The matchup will be Richmond’s first of the season.