After a difficult end to last season, Duke looked to 2019 as an opportunity to put the past away and make a statement as a force to be reckoned with.
And with an offensive showing that refused to give an inch, the Blue Devils did just that.
No. 24 Duke handled Villanova with ease for a 19-9 season-opening victory at Koskinen stadium. Powered by hat tricks from Charlotte North, Catherine Cordrey and Olivia Jenner, the Blue Devils shot out to a quick lead that was never in question.
"What I see is a lot of hard work over the last six, seven months that we've put into [offense]," Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel said. "An exciting part was we had a lot of people score in a lot of different ways, and I love our depth. I love all the different people we have out on the field contributing. Not only did our offensive and midfield units score a lot, they got the ball back for us a lot. Catherine Cordrey forced turnovers, and a lot of those were converted into goals. Just knowing that if we get stopped and tackle back, we can make it happen. I was really pleased with our overall effort on offense today."
North instantly made her presence known, taking advantage of back-to-back draw controls from Jenner to put early pressure on the Wildcats. The Blue Devils (1-0) worked methodically, working around Villanova's packed in defense to set creases for North. From there, the Dallas native did what she does best, barreling through the Wildcat's defenders to give the home team a 2-0 advantage just two minutes into the contest.
Just 20 seconds later, Jenner got in on the action, taking advantage of a foul on Devin Hassinger and shooting a rocket into the back of the net to force a Villanova timeout just two minutes into the first half.
Even after defensive adjustments from the Wildcats forced a Duke turnover and gave Villanova (0-1) an offensive possession, the Blue Devils' much-improved defense refused to give the visiting team an inch. Duke drove down the field after staving the Wildcats off, where Catriona Barry found a streaking North. The sophomore attacker converted with ease, earning a hat trick just over five minutes into the match. All afternoon, the Wildcats could not find an answer for North, who ended the contest with five goals and one assist.
"We've tried to diversify Charlotte's game, so not only was she scoring today, she was assisting," Kimel said. "She's so good with the ball, but she's also worked really hard on her vision in order to see when the defense shifts so she can find those open pockets and gaps where she can hit people on the move through those. For her, tonight was a great game for her."
From there, the half was all Blue Devils, with Duke pouring in 14 points and largely slowing the Wildcats down on drives. Villanova found the back of the net for the first time at 16:14 in one of their rare possessions of the half—the Blue Devils outshot the Wildcats 20-13 in the first half alone and 32-22 on the whole match.
Villanova struck back with a string of three goals from Grainger Rosati, Katie Comerford and Brittany Bruno off a pair of yellow cards on Duke, and stalling offense from the Blue Devils. Although Jenner managed to stem the bleeding with a quick cross off a turnover deep in Wildcat territory.
Although Villanova entered the locker room down by 10, the Wildcats' veteran squad refused to let up in their season opener. Bruno hounded Duke's defense, finding lanes through the Blue Devils' back line and earning a hat trick for the day. To make matters worse for the Blue Devils, Duke struggled with making clean passes, resulting in a sloppy 16 turnovers. However, the Blue Devils' talented core of North, Jenner and Cordrey were able to keep control and hold on for the win.
"We got tired and we had some good opportunities that we just didn't finish in," Kimel said. "It's the first game of the year and it's a lesson for our guys that we won a good game against a good team by a large margin, but we still have a lot to work on."
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Duke will continue its early season slate with a matchup against Presbyterian Wednesday at home.
"A 10 goal win is great. It's a great way to start the entire season," Jenner said. "We have two great opponents coming up in Northwestern and Presbyterian. We're looking forward to that and taking a lot of the stuff we do well, but we also did some stuff we need to work on, and putting that into next week."