Duke women's lacrosse 2023 season preview

Duke players and head coach Kerstin Kimel in September 2022.
Duke players and head coach Kerstin Kimel in September 2022.


Last year, Duke had its best regular season since 2007. Through 16 games, it had only lost one, a tight 18-16 contest in then-No. 3 Syracuse’s JMA Wireless Dome. The Blue Devils downed No. 2 Boston College in Koskinen Stadium, upsetting the 2021 national champions for the Senior Day victory. However, Duke’s efficient unit unraveled as the stakes increased. It lost to eventual ACC and national champion North Carolina 18-4 to close out the regular season, fell in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament to Notre Dame and was eliminated in just the second round of the NCAA tournament. The promising 16-game run ended in disappointment. 

A few key pieces from last year’s roster have departed. Attacker Catriona Barry, who had returned for her fifth year, led the team last season in points and assists. Defender Katie Cosgrove, last year’s ground ball leader among field players, has also exhausted her eligibility. 

The core of that group, however, is back for another run. Program legend and all-time draw control leader Maddie Jenner is utilizing her fifth year of eligibility, as is starting goalie Sophia LeRose. Senior midfielder Olivia Carner was selected to the preseason All-American second team after her strong all-around play last season. Defender Cubby Biscardi is back for her senior season after leading the team with 42 caused turnovers last season. In terms of young guns, the Blue Devils have a star-studded freshman class headlined by Maryland natives, and hometown rivals, Madison Beale and Sydney Smith. The group got a taste of winning big last year, and the sky is the limit if it can stay consistent. 

“I want them to look at us and say, ‘Wow, they really play as a team,’” said head coach Kerstin Kimel. “... Consistency breeds confidence. And if we can have a consistent approach game to game, mentally, physically, which then equals consistent performance on the field, that'll grow our confidence over the course of this season.”

Duke has a tough ACC slate ahead of it, with marquee matchups against Boston College, Syracuse and North Carolina, but it has the potential to compete with anybody in the nation. -Rachael Kaplan

New player to watch: Madison Beale

As the highest-ranked defender in the recruiting class of 2022, Beale provides defensive depth and elite skill to a Blue Devil squad that is teeming with talent. A product of the Maryland lacrosse dynasty, the freshman is no stranger to elite competition as she played four years in arguably the toughest high school conference in the nation. The challenge paid off, with Beale now coming into the Duke program as the No. 3-ranked player in the country. 

If her pre-collegiate career is any indication, the Blue Devils have a burgeoning star on their hands. Beale led her high school team, St. Paul’s School for Girls, to back-to-back Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference championships while also earning the program the 2021 Inside Lacrosse Women’s National Indoor Championship title. In her club endeavors, she helped her team, Skywalkers, capture the Nike G8 championship in 2019. With any luck, she will bring her title-winning ways to a Duke contingent on the hunt for a national championship. -Mackenzie Sheehy

Returning player to watch: Maddie Jenner 

The Blue Devils' start to 2022 was in large part thanks to Jenner. Returning to Duke for her final year of eligibility due to COVID-19, the Annapolis, Md., native is ready to pick up right where she left off in 2022. One of the best draw specialists in women’s lacrosse, Jenner broke Duke’s all-time draw record en route to a Tewaaraton Award nomination in her senior season. Currently ranked second in NCAA history with 604 total draw controls, the McDonogh High School graduate tallied 30 goals with a .577 shooting percentage over the course of 2022, to go along with 233 draw controls. Simply put, she has already gone down in Duke history as one of the greatest stars to play for the program.

“She is going to be an unstoppable force all over the field this year,” said Kimel. “She’s so hard working … and always striving to get better.”

Perhaps the crowning achievement of Jenner’s career came during last year’s contest against No. 2 Boston College, where she notched the game-winning goal to pull off a near-impossible upset. However, the real icing on the cake was her various national accolades. An IWLCA first team All-American and selectee for the IWLCA All-South Region first team, the draw specialist proved that she is worthy of the limelight. With just 42 draw controls to go until she meets the NCAA record for most total draw controls, Jenner is poised to make history in her final season in a Blue Devil uniform. -Sheehy

Most anticipated matchup: North Carolina, April 20

It won’t come as a surprise that the biggest matchup of the year for the Blue Devils will be their battle against the Tar Heels. This game waits ominously at the very end of Duke’s regular season schedule. Last year, the rivalry game—which also fell at the end of the regular season—disrupted Duke’s near-perfect season with a staggering 18-4 loss. As it stands now, the Blue Devils sit at a preseason ranking of No. 11, while the Tar Heels boast the No. 1 spot: Undoubtedly, North Carolina carries the advantage. But it’s no novel idea that rivalry games can swing against the odds, and if this season goes as planned, all eyes should be on Koskinen Stadium when April rolls around and brings the Tar Heels with it. -Sophie Levenson

Best-case scenario

After a wildly successful run through last spring’s regular season, the Blue Devils were on the wrong side of a second-round loss in the NCAA tournament, falling 19-6 to a tough Maryland team. Nonetheless, last season’s showing proved that Duke is on its way up after two years lost to the pandemic. That the Blue Devils were able to go as far as they did is equally impressive given their slate of mishaps along the way. 

“We also had some tough luck, I think, going into that tournament, where we had a few kids who were sick,” said Kimel. 

Kimel also added that the team suffered a few injuries during the season. Ultimately, this means that the Blue Devils have yet to show their full potential. Duke can aim to showcase the extent of that potential by running through the regular season like the team did last year, losing only one or two games, and then making a deep run in the ACC tournament. At best, this team of Blue Devils could survive until the conference championship and make it to the penultimate round of the NCAA tournament. 

“I think we go into the season not just very experienced but with an incredible amount of leadership that should cover the gamut of what we need as a team this year to be our best,” said Kimel. -Levenson

Worst-case scenario

With players like Jenner and Beale, this team’s floor isn’t too low. In the regular season, the Blue Devils might suffer losses to conference rivals Syracuse and North Carolina; if bad luck prevails, upsets might include preseason top-25 schools like Notre Dame and Yale. Even with a 12-4 record, though, Duke will undoubtedly make a decent showing in the ACC tournament and can count on making it at least through the first round. If the season’s close is once again hit by a plague of injuries and upsets, the Blue Devils, at worst, will retell last year’s tale and fall out of the game in level two of the NCAA bracket. -Levenson


Kaplan: 14-2 (7-2 in ACC), loss in ACC semifinals, loss in NCAA semifinals

Levenson: 14-2 (7-2 in ACC), loss in ACC championship, loss in NCAA quarterfinals

Sheehy: 13-3 (6-3 in ACC), loss in ACC semifinals, loss in NCAA quarterfinals

READ MORE before Duke's season begins:

Once rivals, freshman defenders Madison Beale and Sydney Smith are right at home with Duke women’s lacrosse

Column: To reach contender status, Duke women’s lacrosse’s climb must begin within stacked ACC

Rachael Kaplan profile
Rachael Kaplan | Sports Managing Editor

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

Sophie Levenson | Sports features editor

Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

Mackenzie Sheehy profile
Mackenzie Sheehy | Blue Zone editor

Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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