After hitting the road during spring break for a successful trip to the Northeast, the Blue Devils return home looking to extend their longest winning streak of the season and remain perfect in ACC play.
No. 13 Duke will host No. 16 Virginia Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium after a perfect showing during the week-long break from classes. The Blue Devils began the hiatus with a 16-5 victory at home against then-No. 6 Louisville before topping Columbia 11-7 in New York and escaping a 2-0 hole to defeat Villanova 7-4 in Villanova, Pa.
For a young squad still trying to develop consistency, the three straight victories seem to indicate that Duke is figuring out how to put together 60 complete minutes of lacrosse.
“Wins are wins and we’ll take them at this point in the season, especially given that both teams slowed the game down on us and we were forced to play a lot of defense,” Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel said of the perfect road trip. “We’re getting ready to go into our ACC schedule where there’s no guaranteed wins on either side.… There’s still a lot of lacrosse left to play and a lot of growing left to do.“
The Cavaliers (5-5, 0-3 in the ACC) will travel to Durham with a different goal in mind, anxious to nab their first ACC victory of the season. Opponents have outscored Virginia 112-105, but the Cavaliers have a core of five attackers who have reached double-digit goals, led by junior Posey Valis' team-high 22 tallies. Kimel noted that Virginia, like Duke, is a young team, and the inexperience has reared its head in the ball-handling department. The Cavaliers have committed 141 turnovers to opponents’ 123, and the Blue Devils (7-4, 2-0) will aim to capitalize on those extra possessions.
Although the Duke attack primarily features a young core, Kimel's squad has found a strong voice on the opposite end of the field in second-year captain Claire Scarrone. After missing the first three games of the season due to injury, the senior defender quickly made an impact upon her return with her ability to communicate with the rest of the back line and serve as a tough matchup for opposing offenses.
In Scarrone's absence, Kimel said the team was able to build its depth behind her, allowing Duke to be even more competitive with the captain healthy.
“She’s the anchor of our defense. Obviously we have a veteran defense, but she’s the one who holds everything together,” sophomore midfielder Maddie Crutchfield said. “It was tough not having her at the beginning of the season, but having her now, she’s just such a presence. She teaches—myself included—a lot.”
Five Blue Devils are now in double-digit scoring after a couple of prolonged droughts early in the season. Crutchfield has burst onto the scene, recording 12 goals in the last five games after posting just four tallies in the first six contests. Freshman attack Olivia Jenner has been an immediate spark for Duke as well, adding 12 scores. Jenner also claimed the program’s freshman draw control record with two in the win at Villanova—bringing her total to 52—with more than a quarter of the regular season still to play.
“The offense has been inconsistent, they would be the first to tell you that,” Kimel said. “But this is the first week in [five] weeks that we’ve had one game at the end of the week. It’s really given us a great opportunity to work on ourselves and continue to work on the chemistry and some of the tactical things that we’ve been trying to do with them all year.”
After a week of rest and preparation, Kimel said she hopes her squad will be refreshed and ready to perform at the level the Blue Devils have shown glimpses of during its ACC slate.
“We go into the games thinking that we’re going to get everyone’s best game and we should want everyone’s best game,” Crutchfied said. “Regardless of who they’ve beaten or who they’ve lost to, we’re going to come out focusing on us and play our best lacrosse.”
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