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Duke women's lacrosse overcomes slow start, ends losing skid with win at Saint Joseph's

<p>Senior Hayley Fisher was one of four Blue Devils to record hat tricks Thursday afternoon.&nbsp;</p>

Senior Hayley Fisher was one of four Blue Devils to record hat tricks Thursday afternoon. 

When the Blue Devils fell behind 4-0 Thursday, one wondered whether Duke's season was truly about to go off the rails in March. 

But facing a nonconference opponent, the Blue Devils steadied the ship and rallied to earn their first victory of the month.

Led by hat tricks from four different players, No. 19 Duke downed Saint Joseph’s 16-10 at Sweeney Field in Philadelphia Thursday. Although the team's enduring issues with turnovers persisted against the Hawks, the Blue Devil offense kicked into high gear to offset the damage.

“Our whole team adapted really well from the start of this trip,” Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel told GoDuke.com. “Our travel plans were disrupted with the weather and the cold. We had not played on a cold day yet this year. The whole team did a really good job of adapting today and competing really hard to pull out a good win against a tough [Saint Joseph’s] team.”

Despite securing three of the first four draw controls and matching Saint Joseph’s (2-4) in the ground ball game, the Blue Devils (5-3) got off to another slow start and allowed the Hawks to take a 4-0 lead in the first 13:48 of the contest. After Saint Joseph’s midfielder Julia Pash ripped the fourth goal past sophomore netminder Jamie Lockwood, Duke freshman Catherine Cordrey rebounded a free position shot after a long possession to finally put the Blue Devils on the board with 15:22 to go in the half.

Duke snapped to attention from there. Less than two minutes later, junior Grace Fallon fed junior Kyra Harney for the Blue Devils’ second score of the game. Another minute and a half later, junior Maddie Crutchfield found the back of the net to cut the Hawk lead to one. Harney then struck again with 11:26 to go in the half to knot the score at four.

“[Saint Joseph’s] did a great job of coming out quickly and attacking us hard,” Kimel said. “I think what’s great is that we were down and we were able to dig ourselves out of a hole and respond with defensive adjustments.”

The Hawks finally regained their footing with about 10 minutes left in the half when freshman Hope Anhut converted on a quick pass from sophomore Rebecca Lane to reclaim the lead. Duke responded with three straight goals—two of which were assisted by preseason first-team All-American Crutchfield—and looked primed to take a two-goal lead into the locker room.

But with eight seconds remaining, Saint Joseph’s managed to slide one more shot past Lockwood to narrow the gap heading into halftime. Even with the 7-6 lead, though, the Blue Devils held a 10-3 draw control advantage, a 9-7 edge in ground balls and a 21-10 shot ledger heading into the second half.

And not having to play from behind after two straight deflating losses gave Kimel's team some much-needed confidence.

“Our offense kind of figured out Saint Joseph’s defense,” Kimel said. “They did a good job of moving the ball and generating good looks.”

The Hawks opened second-half scoring with an unassisted goal from senior Maggie Egan to tie the game, but that was the closest they would come to reclaiming the lead for the remainder of the contest. Duke rattled off four straight goals—two of which gave Cordrey and Harney hat tricks—to distance itself from Saint Joseph’s once and for all.

Although Lane secure a hat trick for herself with back-to-back goals at the 13-minute mark, her effort was not enough to shift momentum back in the Hawks’ favor. The Blue Devils erupted for another foul-goal rally—this time with Crutchfield and senior Hayley Shaffer completing their own hat tricks—in the following 11 minutes to build a firm 15-9 lead with 1:57 to go. The two sides exchanged goals in the final two minutes, but Duke held on to the six-point lead for the 16-10 finish.

“We did a great job with our spacing on the field today,” Kimel said. “That’s really the biggest adjustment we’ve been able to make over the past few weeks. Our spacing is significantly better.”

The Blue Devils' resilience—especially on the offensive third—allowed them to climb back into the game despite another early four point deficit. An 88.9 percent success rate in clearing attempts as they held Saint Joseph’s to 15-of-23 on clears fueled Duke’s three separate four-goal spurts and showed a notable improvement for a team trying to get back on track.

Despite the Blue Devils’ momentum heading into their next contest, their 18-turnover performance promises to give them trouble against No. 13 Pennsylvania (5-1), a squad that averages 9.5 caused turnovers each game. Duke will need to get its stick-handling errors under control if it wants to head back into conference play with a spring-break winning streak under its belt.

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