Learning comes from experience—as the cliché goes—and the young Blue Devils were reminded Saturday night that some lessons come more difficultly than others.
After being held without a goal for 25 minutes spanning halftime, the No. 7 Blue Devils fell 11-5 to No. 18 Southern California Saturday night at Lebard Stadium as part of the U.S. Lacrosse Orange County Invitational. The game was just the second-ever meeting between the two teams after Duke emerged the victor in last season's NCAA tournament matchup. This time, the Trojans came our firing and claimed a quick 3-0 advantage on their way to evening the all-time series.
“[We learned] that we have a lot of work to do,” head coach Kerstin Kimel told GoDuke.com.
The Blue Devils were held without a goal for the first 14 minutes until sophomore attacker Kyra Harney got the Blue Devils on the board with back-to-back scores, bringing her goal total to 11 this season. After Duke (2-2) pulled within one, the teams traded goals, as Southern California attacker Kylie Drexel and Blue Devil freshman Olivia Jenner each posted their first score of the evening. But the Trojan offense proved too much for Duke to slow down, and Drexel closed out the scoring in the first period with two more tallies, giving her squad a 6-3 advantage at the half.
Southern California (2-0) continued to pull away, again holding the Blue Devils without a goal for more than 15 minutes and embarking on a 5-0 run of their own. Jenner found the net once again off a free position opportunity with 14:55 left to get Duke back on the board. Senior attacker Kelci Smesko chipped in three minutes later, posting her only score of the night to bring the Blue Devils within four.
But the Trojans continued to control the game, due in large part to 14 Blue Devil turnovers. Southern California ran down the clock and attacker Maggie Mawhinney and midfielder Kelsey Dreyer each added a goal to extend the Trojans’ lead.
“The biggest things that stand out to us were our turnovers and our inability to execute on offense,” Kimel said. “Given that we are very young offensively, it's not entirely surprising. But that’s definitely something we need to fix moving forward, so that we can be a more productive unit and play up to our potential.”
With a young Blue Devil offense—which was outshot 22-11—struggling to ignite, Duke goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea did her best to keep her team in the game. The senior's eight saves were enough to make her third on the Blue Devils’ all-time list, passing Kim Imbesi, a mainstay between the pipes from 2006-09. Only four games into the season, Duryea has recorded 39 saves, but was under heavy pressure Saturday as the Trojans wore down the Blue Devil defense by controlling the ball for much of the contest.
“We had a lot of really good stands," Kimel said. “We had a couple of goals that we gave up that were a bit easy. But I think given that we played as much defense as we did, I thought [our defense] played pretty strong.”
The Blue Devils will return to practice this week hoping to work on their offensive capabilities and eliminating turnovers. The squad will resume play Thursday, playing host to Elon at 4 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium.
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