Duke’s season has not been what the Blue Devil faithful hoped. But Tuesday’s game served as a reminder of why they started the season with high hopes.
On a sunny Tuesday afternoon, the Blue Devils gathered in Koskinen Stadium to take a break from ACC competition and challenge High Point at home. Duke trampled the Panthers 20-10, gaining an important victory in its penultimate home game and offering a reminder of the talent on its roster.
“It's just so nice to play back at home and I think this game is going to be our turning point. We're just gonna come at the rest of the season like nothing's gonna stop us,” said sophomore attacker Carly Bernstein.
Off a long pass from junior midfielder Katie Keller, sophomore midfielder Mattie Shearer angled a shot from the left side of the goal that landed right behind Panther goalie Taylor Suplee and made a satisfying dent in the net. For the first time since a February win against Liberty, Duke (7-7) managed a 10-score lead at 17-7.
“I thought Mattie’s goal was a great exclamation point type of goal for us,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel.
Tuesday gave Duke, which had won just a singular game since starting its ACC schedule, a chance to remind itself and its opponents of its strengths, just in time for the last two games of the regular season.
“The bottom line is we need a good win,” said Kimel. “We really don't have a signature win right now.”
Less than 30 seconds into the second half, Bernstein put Duke up 11-5 with her second goal of the day. Ten minutes later, riding an aggressive offensive effort from her team, the Short Hills, N.J., native completed her hat trick. Bernstein’s three goals matched a season-high set in February against Davidson.
“Today we just went out there,” Bernstein said. “And it didn't matter who we were playing. We all decided we were gonna play for each other. We were playing for something bigger than ourselves.”
The sophomore was not alone against High Point (3-9) as across the board, the Blue Devils stepped up their game. On the attacking front, they totaled 27 shots on goal out of 38 total attempts; on the defensive end, they forced 14 turnovers.
Graduate goalkeeper Sophia LeRose is on her way back after missing a chunk of the season due to an undisclosed medical condition. The Torrey Pines product played the first three quarters in net before being replaced by freshman Madison Drebing with 10 minutes to play.
Until a free-position goal by High Point’s Mena Loescher with just over a minute left in the first quarter, Duke held the Panthers scoreless. Before then, the Blue Devils had already racked up five goals, with two coming from junior attacker Katie DeSimone, whose 45 goals lead the team.
“We had control of the game. They were able to play kind of free and loose … I think that they did a great job taking advantage of opportunities,” said Kimel.
Senior midfielder Lexi Schmalz broke the three-minute silence that started the game with a free-position goal. The shot seemed to boost Duke’s confidence, setting off a 5-0 run that featured a goal from senior attacker Caroline DeBellis, a second-chance dart from graduate attacker Eva Greco and another bullet from DeSimone.
Despite Duke’s speedy start, the Panthers did not immediately fall out of the conversation. Five minutes into the second quarter, they had closed the gap from 5-0 to 7-4. This seemed to spur Duke into action: In the two minutes following High Point’s fourth goal, Keller scored and then launched a perfect assist to Bernstein, who sent the ball quickly and cleanly into the net. A second goal from Schmalz just a few moments later forced a High Point timeout with five minutes left in the half.
Unfortunately for the visiting team, Duke shut down any hope of a Panther comeback right as the third period began. By the end of the quarter, the Blue Devils carried a 17-6 lead.
“This gives us a lot of momentum,” Kimel said. “If you look at our score sheet, we had a ton of people score and contribute today, which is awesome. Statistically, we were very good today.”
For the final 15 minutes, Duke took advantage of a tired High Point team to give some of its less experienced players a chance on the field. Graduate midfielder Jane DiGregorio, a Davidson transfer, scored the Blue Devils’ final goal, her second of the season.
“It was just nice to be able to have a game where we could get people on the field and do some different things, so our attention then quickly turns to Saturday,” said Kimel.
The Blue Devils will return to ACC competition at 1 p.m. Saturday at Louisville.
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Sophie Levenson is a Trinity sophomore and sports features editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.