In what has been an up-and-down season so far ripe with uncertainty, there has been one constant: junior attack Olivia Jenner’s domination at the draw.
Despite her unit struggling to find the back of the net at times—the Blue Devils went scoreless for more than 34 minutes in a one-goal loss at Notre Dame April 15—they have generally been able to keep it close due to the sheer amount of possessions Jenner and the rest of the draw team has generated.
Jenner came to Durham talented at securing draw controls. She broke the Duke record for single-season draw controls as a freshman, ranking sixth nationally in draw controls per game.
But this year, she’s taken her game to a new level, surpassing her own program record April 9 in a 16-12 loss against High Point. On the season, Jenner is averaging 8.5 draw controls per game, good for third in the nation.
“It’s something that she takes a lot of pride in, and she’s done a lot of work—physical work, but also film work—to watch herself and watch other people she’s drawing against in preparation for games,” head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “We want all of our juniors to assume some sort of leadership, and she really wanted to take ownership of the draw and the draw team and the extra work that they put in.”
Jenner fine-tuned her craft over the summer to become one of the most dominant forces in the nation on the draw. The Annapolis, Md., native used her hometown to her advantage, as Jenner’s high school team at McDonogh had just extended its national win streak to 177 games and secured the top spot in high school lacrosse for the eighth straight season. She reached out to players—some of the best in the country—nearby to practice the draw, and she did not have to leave her house to find her main source of competition: her sister.
Maddie Jenner, who will be joining Olivia next year in Durham, is McDonogh’s de facto leader on the draw. At 6-foot-2, she uses her size to overwhelm her opponents, and she snagged 165 draw controls last season.
So Jenner, who generally towers over her opponents at 5-foot-10, had to deal with some serious competition over the summer. Maddie only helped make her better.
“Last year, I was someone who really struggled against people who pushed the ball or were really strong in general, so something I tried to work on was getting faster with my hands and just doing more draws in general in the offseason,” Jenner said. “My sister is someone who I practiced a lot against this summer, and she definitely pushed me to do better.”
After watching Jenner for nearly three seasons, Kimel can generally tell when she is getting on a roll from the draw, which has become even more valuable due to the introduction of the shot clock two years ago.
“You can just tell because her hands are moving really quick, but also she is able to track the ball really well and easily,” Kimel said. “She’s putting the ball in places where she can find it right away and get her hands to it.”
On the other side of the field, it can be tough to maintain focus when the ball is constantly in the attacking half. Generally, if the offense has held onto the ball for a few minutes, the entire defensive unit will huddle to stay on the same page.
But when sophomore goalkeeper Gabbe Cadoux is between the pipes, something completely different is going on.
Cadoux will run around the net, sometimes breaking out a jump or two, much to the excitement of her teammates on the sideline.
“[I run] just [in] the area. Jump up and down in the crease, whatever works,” Cadoux said. “Everybody thinks it looks funny, but I love it.”
Although sometimes it may be hard for the defense to regain focus on its first possession in a few minutes, the unit loves when Jenner goes on her mini-spurts, such as the one to kickstart the Blue Devils’ 21-12 win against Louisville in early March. Jenner won the initial four draws, helping engineer a quick 4-0 Duke lead. Jenner finished with a career-best 15 draws on the afternoon, helping set the table for freshman attack Charlotte North’s record-breaking eight-goal performance.
“Especially when we’re on a roll, and I know our whole defensive unit gets so excited, and the whole midfield and attack [as well],” Cadoux said. “It’s really what sets the momentum for scoring goals and making defensive stops.”
Although she is not the only contributor, Jenner has led the charge in the Blue Devils’ dominance at the circle. The team leads the nation in draw controls per game, and is out-drawing its opponents by more than 100 this season. Starting midfielders Catriona Barry and Maddie Crutchfield have both racked up more than 40 apiece this season, and Jenner is quick to acknowledge that she could not reach these heights without them.
“[Being first in the nation in draw controls per game is] definitely a cool accomplishment just because this has been something that I’ve been doing since middle school, but I think it speaks more highly of the people I have on the circle,” Jenner said. “That’s a pride thing for us that if we get the draw, we have more possessions.”
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