Senior goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea delivered one of her best performances in a Duke uniform Sunday afternoon, posting a career-high 16 saves.

But it was not enough.

No. 5 Duke took a 5-2 lead in the opening period against No. 4 Northwestern at Koskinen Stadium, but the Wildcats stormed back with six unanswered goals and hung on from there to win 11-8. In their first early test of the season, the Blue Devils found themselves on the wrong side of the scoreboard before intermission and could not orchestrate a comeback in the second half.

“[After today,] we’re going to learn a lot about ourselves. [We knew] that scheduling this game early, this would be a game [in which we] could learn about ourselves quickly and would get us moving along and progressing faster through the season,” Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “Duryea is a big presence [in defense.] It’s a bummer to waste a 16-save effort on a loss, but I’m proud of her. She did a great job of just holding off and making some stellar saves for us, giving us good momentum.”

One year ago, the Blue Devils (1-1) defeated Northwestern 15-9 in Northbrook, Ill., led by seven goals from the duo of Katie Trees and Kerrin Maurer—two of the eight Blue Devils who graduated last May. Wildcat midfielder Selena Lasota tallied five goals in that game, and the Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada, native proved just as unstoppable Sunday.

The sophomore beat Duryea five more times, teaming with midfielder Sheila Nesselbush to notch a hat-trick apiece in the first half. The Wildcats (1-0) outshot the Blue Devils 18-12 in the opening frame and headed to the locker room with a 6-5 advantage.

Nesselbush broke the scoreless deadlock 3:15 after the opening draw, but Duke turned things around thanks to scores from sophomore striker Kyra Harney and junior midfielder Stuart Humphrey. After the Blue Devils extended their lead to 5-2 with 13:20 left before halftime, the Wildcats notched four straight goals in a nine-minute span to regain control.

“I tried to do my job and set the tone. On defense, we are working to get the ball to our attack. Obviously, it didn’t end up the way we wanted it to, be but we played with a lot of heart and hustle today,” Duryea said. “This gives us an idea of who we are and who we want to be and just shows the areas that we need to improve on.”

Northwestern only needed one and a half minutes after intermission to add two more tallies, but the Blue Devils went on a 3-0 run to tie the game 8-8 with 7:56 left to play, with freshman midfielder Olivia Jenner finding the back of the net twice.

The Wildcats responded immediately, with Lasota and attacker Kaleigh Craigh netting goals 22 seconds apart to give them a 10-8 lead..

“We lost a few draws, we had a few turnovers in attack and we didn’t execute things the way we should have,” senior attacker Kelci Smesko said. “It’s the second game [of the season.] It’s not an excuse, but it’s something we can learn from. Next time, when the game is 8-8, we’re going to make sure that we make it 9-8 and we win that game.”

The two-goal deficit proved to be insurmountable for the Blue Devils, though Duke did have a few chances to make things interesting. With 5:23 to play, Northwestern’s Danita Stroup delivered the final blow to make it 11-8 and put the game out of reach.

“The main message is that the mistakes that we make are mistakes that we can’t afford in practice,” Kimel said. “In every zone and every aspect of what we did today, we made some errors. Whether they were physical, decision-making or mental errors, we’re going to look at everything and think, ‘This is what we need [to do.]’”

The Blue Devils will try to rebound and hit the road for the first time this season Saturday when they take on Navy in Annapolis, Md.