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Comeback falls short for Duke women's lacrosse at No. 4 Syracuse

<p>Senior Maddy Acton scored a career-high six goals Sunday, but the Blue Devils could not dig out of an 11-5 halftime deficit against No. 4 Syracuse.</p>

Senior Maddy Acton scored a career-high six goals Sunday, but the Blue Devils could not dig out of an 11-5 halftime deficit against No. 4 Syracuse.

The Blue Devils' hot streak came to a halt Sunday afternoon, as Maddy Acton's career day was not enough to carry Duke back from a big halftime deficit at the Carrier Dome.

No. 4 Syracuse held off a late Blue Devil comeback, beating No. 13 Duke 14-12 in Syracuse, N.Y., and handing the visitors their first loss in five games and first conference defeat of the season. The Orange jumped out to an 11-5 halftime lead, and though Acton scored six goals and the Blue Devils netted the game's final four tallies, Duke simply ran out of time.

“It was tough because we were down, but we wanted to make sure we played with patience,” head coach Kerstin Kimel told GoDuke.com. “[We wanted to] work the ball, make the ball work for us and then look for a great opportunity—which we did create—we just didn’t finish.“

Syracuse (10-3, 3-1 in the ACC) entered the game boasting one of the most intimidating attacks in the nation and wasted little time jumping on the scoreboard. Halle Majorana gave the Orange the lead 3:54 into the game, one of her three goals on the afternoon, and Riley Donahue followed suit with her 24th of the year less than a minute later.

Duke (8-5, 3-1) bounced back with three straight scores—one each from Emma Lazaroff, Acton and Stuart Humphrey—but Syracuse dominated the rest of the half. The Orange slipped six unanswered shots past Duke goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea as the Blue Devils went silent for nearly 20 minutes.

The young Duke offense had begun to produce during the team's four-game winning streak, with its stalwart defense led by senior captains Duryea and Claire Scarrone to anchor the back line. Scarrone led all players with two caused turnovers—including a crucial stop with 10 minutes remaining in the contest to shift the momentum in her team’s favor. Scarrone and Duryea's defensive unit had held seven of Duke’s last eight opponents to single-digit goals entering Sunday’s matchup, but the Syracuse offense got the best of the Blue Devils for much of the first half.

“We did not compete well defensively in the first half. That was more what I think we’re disappointed in,” Kimel said. “We kind of expected a little bit of what we saw offensively from us, but from a coaching standpoint we were really disappointed. We didn’t limit any of their top guys. We know their personnel really well, we know what they’re looking to create and we just didn’t do a good job.”

Kayla Treanor joined Majorana with a hat trick Sunday, giving her a team-high 32 goals for the season. Kimel praised the senior's ability to create offensively, as Treanor also added a game-high four assists and thus contributed to half the Orange’s scores.

On the other end of the field, the Syracuse defense used the face-guarding technique to shut down the two top Blue Devil scorers—attackers Kyra Harney and Kelci Smesko—keeping each off the board all afternoon. Kimel said that she was not surprised by this method after watching film of the Orange and as a result, Smesko sat for much of the second period.

“I think we just wanted to try something different, put someone else in there to kind of shake things up,” Kimel said. “At that point, the way we were trying to use her wasn’t necessarily being effective so we wanted to change things and see what happened. It afforded us to go on a little bit of a run.”

After Syracuse added the first tally of the second half, Duke went to work, trading goals with the Orange for most of the second half. But with 5:59 left, the Blue Devils began their last-gasp effort to climb back into the game. Sophomore Maddy Crutchfield—who notched her fifth hat trick of the season Sunday—beat Syracuse goalkeeper Allie Murray, kickstarting Duke's 4-0 game-ending run.

All four goals during the late spurt were scored by Crutchfield and Acton, who combined for 10 of the Blue Devils' 16 points.

Sunday’s dropped Duke to an even 3-3 record against ranked opponents and a 1-3 ledger against the Orange as ACC opponents. The Blue Devils will look to move the needle back into their favor when they host No. 12 Boston College Saturday Saturday at noon for Senior Day.

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