After falling to the hands of the Blue Devils last year on the road by a single goal, Northwestern exacted revenge at home Sunday afternoon.

With just 25 ticks left in the contest and the score knotted at 20, Lindsey McKone notched her second goal of the day to cap a 3-0 Wildcat run spanning the last three-and-a-half minutes to give the home team a thrilling 21-20 victory at Ryan Fieldhouse in Evanston, Ill.

“Northwestern is an excellent team. They are really physical and really fast and obviously very high-scoring offensively. For us, what we are proud of is that we put up 20 goals against a great team. I thought we fought really hard and competed really well,” head coach Kerstin Kimel told GoDuke.com. “We just got stuck in the last three minutes. We made some not so great decisions that put us in a position where they had the ball more than we did.”

The game was defined by long scoring runs by both sides, which had allowed No. 24 Duke (2-1) to lead by as many as five with four minutes left in the first half. The final frame was set up by a 3-0 Blue Devil run—two goals from Charlotte North and tally from Olivia Jenner—in less than 90 seconds that gave the guests a 20-18 lead with 7:16 left to play.

Although two Chase Henriquez saves kept No. 7 Northwestern (3-0) off the board for the next three minutes, fouls and turnovers plagued the Blue Devils, who were unable to extend the lead. Following a foul from Callie Humphrey, Wildcat Lauren Gilbert converted on a free-position shot for her fifth and final goal of the day to cut the deficit in half with 3:32 to go. 

Despite Maddie Jenner securing her 13th draw of the day following the goal, Duke squandered an opportunity to ice the game with a Catherine Cordrey turnover. Henrique looked to have bailed out the Blue Devils with another save but a failed clear due to a Michelle Staggers turnover that allowed Northwestern to score with a free position shot to tie the game with 1:18 left. An ensuing draw control for Brennan Dwyer set up the final decisive possession for the Wildcats.

The game started off poorly for the Duke squad, with Northwestern tallying two goals in 59 seconds to jump out to an early lead. However, the Blue Devils responded with two goals from Olivia Jenner and Cordrey to even the ledger at three apiece just over five minutes into the game. Two Gilbert goals over the next six minutes highlighted a 3-1 Wildcat run, extending the lead to 6-4—the largest lead Northwestern would hold all day.

“Even out of the gate the game was really fast right away and we got down. I think our kids showed a lot of fortitude in that they had a next play mentality and we didn’t let it get us down,” Kimel said. “We fought really hard and mentally stayed in the game to put ourselves in position.”

From there, Duke went on a dominating tear that ordinarily would have buried any other opponent. From the 18:23 to the 4:05 mark, the Blue Devils rallied off seven straight goals and appeared to be heading into break with a sizable lead. Over that stretch Maddie Jenner had five of Duke’s seven draw controls and a goal while North chipped in two of her five goals to give Duke a 11-6 lead.

However, Northwestern had a response of its own, cutting the deficit to just two at the half as it entering the break down just 12-10. The Wildcats rode the momentum into the second half, ripping off three straight goals before Olivia Jenner stopped the bleeding with one of her five goals to even the score at 13 with just under 25 minutes left in the contest.

“We took a nice lead. They fought back and then we fought back. Unfortunately, at the end we just didn’t have enough,” Kimel said.

Over the next 15 minutes, the teams settled into a back-and-forth contest with neither team leading by more than two. Despite the huge runs on both sides throughout the game, the last 17 minutes saw the teams tied on four different occasions before the final two runs closed out an electrifying match between two evenly-matched teams.

The Jenner sisters combined for 21 draw controls as the Blue Devils won the matchup at the face-off 26-17. However, the Wildcats outshot Duke with 88.6 percent of their 35 shots on target while the Blue Devils could only muster a 67.5 shot-on-goal percentage on 40 shots. In a game with seemingly very little defense, Northwestern did a solid job of forcing 11 of Duke’s 15 turnovers, an important difference-maker as the Wildcats only coughed up the ball eight times.

"I think that Maddie and Liv did a great job on the circle. They kept on throwing all different people at them. I think they are kind of selfless: ‘I can take this kid, you can’t or I am not doing well against her, you go’,” Kimel said. “For them to help us dominate the draw and give us possession as much as they did was fantastic.”

The Blue Devils will look to regroup in time for the start of ACC play. Duke returns home next Saturday to take on Virginia Tech, who are currently on a two-game skid. 

“We can score. I think we competed really well. A lot of kids helped us today in different ways,” Kimel said. “We have to tighten up defensively and I am interested to watch the film to see what that looked like. That’s an area we have to focus on as we head into next weekend.”