Duke women's lacrosse 2021 season preview

Caroline DeBellis is set to build off an impressive freshman campaign.
Caroline DeBellis is set to build off an impressive freshman campaign.


Men’s lacrosse isn’t the only team on campus returning a wealth of experience and adding a top graduate transfer—women’s lacrosse is doing the same. And with all that firepower, the Blue Devils look set to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2016.

Duke’s 2021 squad features 33 returners, who account for all the team’s starts from the 2020 season and over 96% of the total points scored. The returners include both of Duke’s senior starters from last season: defender Callie Humphrey and midfielder Catherine Cordrey. On top of that, the Blue Devils add former Pennsylvania attacker Gabby Rosenzweig, the Quakers’ all-time leading scorer, as well as the 14th-ranked recruiting class in the nation. 

The Blue Devils enter the season ranked No. 15 in the country. But with six other ACC teams in the top-25, including the top three spots, their conference schedule will be no cakewalk. -Jonathan Browning

New player to watch: Gabby Rosenzweig

While Rosenzweig may be a new face in Durham, she’s certainly not new to college lacrosse. The graduate transfer adds another layer of skill and experience to Duke’s already versatile offense, and brings with her three NCAA tournament appearances. She holds a plethora of honors from her time at Pennsylvania, including being named a third-team All-American in 2019, and recently garnered preseason All-ACC recognition. The Blue Devils may be bringing in a top crop of new recruits, but look for Rosenzweig to be the newcomer to quickly make her way into the starting lineup. -Browning

Returning player to watch: Caroline DeBellis

With so many returners, it’s hard to pick just one returning player to watch, especially with multiple former All-Americans within that group. But I’m actually not going to go with any of the former All-Americans—rather, the returning Blue Devil to keep your eye on this season is sophomore attacker Caroline DeBellis, who broke out last year as a freshman and was a major reason why Duke was poised to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years. After the departure of star attacker Charlotte North to Boston College before last season started, DeBellis helped fill the offensive void and led the Blue Devils in points and assists. The New York native is a gifted scorer, but it’s her vision and distribution where she truly shines. Look for her to be the anchor on an offense full of high-octane scorers. -Browning

Most anticipated matchup: North Carolina, April 23

As per usual, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels will face each other twice this season. And it’ll be the final matchup between the two, and the final game of the regular season for both, in Duke’s own Koskinen Stadium that will likely be the most intense. If Duke wins the first game at North Carolina, it’ll return home hoping to hold onto the crown. If the Blue Devils lose that first game, they’ll come back with something to prove. What makes this matchup even more appealing is North Carolina’s status as the clear No. 1 team in the country and a potential “superteam.” -Campbell Lawson

Best-case scenario

Win both the ACC and National Championships. While Duke enters the season ranked No. 15, the combination of solid returning players along with exciting new freshmen and transfers gives the Blue Devils major potential. The ACC may be overwhelmingly present in the preseason top-25, but it’s important to remember the strength the Blue Devils were showing before last season got cut short. They’ve got it in them. -Lawson

Worst-case scenario

As is the case for most teams this year, the worst-case scenario for the Blue Devils is that their most intimidating opponent (COVID-19) takes them down. Given the absurdity of this season, it’s possible that the team will not be able to mesh as well as they should, leading to a disappointing campaign. Furthermore, this season is unprecedented for players of all ages, but especially freshmen, so it’s unknown how well the newest additions to Duke’s team will perform. An early postseason exit is certainly a possibility. - Lawson


Browning: 11-4 (6-4 in the ACC), loss in ACC semifinals, loss in NCAA quarterfinals

Lawson: 10-5 (5-5 in the ACC), loss in ACC semifinals, loss in NCAA second round

Editor's note: This is a part of The Chronicle's series of previews for Duke's spring sports, the rest of which can be found here.


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