Veterans lead Duke women’s lacrosse to season-opening victory against Navy

Duke attacker Anna Callahan (team-high five points) in the Blue Devils' season-opening win against Navy.
Duke attacker Anna Callahan (team-high five points) in the Blue Devils' season-opening win against Navy.

Welcome back to Koskinen Stadium. 

In its first game at home since downing Boston College on last spring’s Senior Day, Duke held its ground in its season opener, beating Navy 15-10 Friday afternoon. The 11th-ranked Blue Devils pulled ahead early, scoring five goals in the first 10 minutes. However, the Midshipmen kept it close, cutting each eight-goal lead down as soon Duke reached that margin. 

“This was a tough first opponent,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel. “Navy is really physical. They're fast, they play hard. They were exactly what we thought they would be, and it's a great test for us as a first game.”

It is natural for the first game of the season to be emotional, and Friday was no different. The contest was physical with eight yellow cards issued across the board, nearly all for dangerous hits to the head. Though tensions ran high, Duke’s veterans helped ground the squad. Graduate students Maddie Jenner and Anna Callahan, both exercising their fifth year of eligibility, led the Blue Devils with poise and intensity. 

“They were both really calm when we needed them to be calm, when the game just started getting physical and there were cards,” said Kimel of the attack duo. 

While Callahan has played in every game since the start of her sophomore year, her start Friday marks only the 10th in her career and her first since the 2020 season. She made the most of the opportunity, matching her career-high point total at five and even causing a turnover.

“Anna did a really good job of talking and just making sure everybody was where they needed to be,” said Kimel. “... Sometimes in those situations, you can get tentative, but I thought Anna did a good job of staying aggressive and going to the goal and trying to initiate on the offensive end.”

While both of her goals came early and helped keep Duke comfortably in front, her three assists showed just how instrumental she was in her team’s offensive success. Truly in the style of a leader, Callahan passed all the credit along to her teammates. 

“My teammates did a great job getting open and being in the right spots,” said Callahan. “We worked on that so much, so I'm really proud to see my teammates take and finish those shots.”

One of those shots was finished by Jenner. The two connected early in the fourth quarter for a man-down goal to extend the lead back to 13-5. The goal was one of three for the McDonogh product, the 10th hat trick of her storied career with the Blue Devils. However, her biggest contribution, as per usual, was at the draw. 

The all-time program leader at the position, Jenner won 13 draw controls, two more than Navy’s collective total. Those 13 bring her career total to 617, just 29 away from the NCAA record. The Annapolis, Md., native rewrote the Duke record books last spring, overcoming her sister Olivia Jenner’s career and single-game records. She holds the national single-season draw control record with 233 last spring, a mark she undoubtedly will attempt to top in her final few months with the Blue Devils. 

No matter her dominance at the draw, Jenner has made strides across her offensive play. 

“She's the queen of the draw. She's broken numerous records for that draw control, but she's more than that,” said Callahan of Jenner. “She's an unbelievable attacker—she has the best hands on the team. She's somebody that we can rely on day in and day out to bring it in practice and for games.”

That all-around offensive capability, along with her chemistry with Callahan, was on full display Friday. The two combined for five goals and four assists, nearly 40% of the team’s point total. Fellow graduate student Sophia LeRose anchored Duke between the pipes, tallying nine saves and ending multiple strong offensive possessions by the Midshipmen. As the season ramps up, competition grows tougher and the lights get bright, the Blue Devils will have to rely on their veterans to keep them level-headed and competitive. 

“Because we're older, I'm gonna expect us to continue to step up,” said Kimel. 

While the graduate students headlined the opening win, they were not the only difference-makers. Junior attacker Katie DeSimone notched a hat trick of her own while senior midfielder Lexi Schmalz scored two goals, tying her own career-high. Three freshmen—Madison Beale, Sydney Smith and Kaylie Mackiewicz—saw the field, gaining experience before conference play begins in just two weeks. 

Duke will hit the road Wednesday as it takes on in-state foe Davidson at 4:30 p.m.

Rachael Kaplan profile
Rachael Kaplan | Sports Managing Editor

Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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