Duke women's lacrosse steamrolled by No. 19 Clemson, drops ACC opener

Lexi Schmalz rushes at the goalkeeper during Duke's loss to Clemson.
Lexi Schmalz rushes at the goalkeeper during Duke's loss to Clemson.

When the opening whistle blew in Duke’s contest with Clemson, it looked as though the Blue Devils were up to the task to tame their opponents. Yet after 60 minutes of play, one thing became abundantly clear — not even a Devil can cage a Tiger.

Duke was squashed by No. 19 Clemson in a 20-11 defeat Saturday afternoon that left a sour note on the Blue Devils’ opening matchup of ACC play. Senior attacker Katie DeSimone led Duke with five goals to her name, while goalies Courtney Kaufman and Kennedy Everson combined for 11 saves. The Tigers were propelled by Claire Bockstie and Emma Tilson at three goals apiece as Emma Lamparter held it down in net with seven saves. The dropped contest puts the Blue Devils at three losses on the year already.

“Disappointing,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel postgame. “They clearly outplayed us and played great, but it’s obviously a disappointing performance for us.”

Initially, however, it did not look like Clemson would run away with the matchup. In fact, Duke (2-3, 0-1 in the ACC) seemed to be on the front foot as it opened the scoring. The Blue Devils made their first mark on the game less than five minutes in when midfielder Olivia Carner dodged past her defender from the right side of the eight-meter. The graduate student sent the ball over the right shoulder of Lamparter for an upper-left corner shot.

The Tigers (4-0, 1-0) responded in kind with a tough-angled conversion from the stick of Bockstie to make it 1-1. Duke punched back with the help of DeSimone, who came around the left side of the cage and shot it low for her 20th goal of the season. Midfielder Maddie McCorkle got in on the action as well with an assist from Lexi Schmalz to lift the Blue Devils to a 3-1 lead. Even as Clemson added another tally before the first quarter was up, Duke’s defensive stringency kept the Tigers at bay.

“We were making some key stops on defense, and then coming up with the loose balls and getting it to our offense,” Kimel said.

Despite an intense, low-scoring opening quarter, Clemson came into the second period out for blood. Just over a minute in, junior midfielder Summer Agostino drove to the cage from the left side of the field and sent it flying past Kaufman to tie the contest at 3-3. Duke did its best to respond as Caroline DeBellis tried to put one in the net, but Lamparter came up with the save before her team ran out the shot clock on the Blue Devils. 

The Tigers rushed to the other end to capitalize on the offensive opportunity and quickly cashed in when freshman attacker Kayla Macleod cut up from behind the cage to receive a pass from the top of the eight-meter arc. She faked before firing it to give Clemson its first lead of the game at 4-3.

From there, the floodgates seemingly opened for the Tigers as they scored four unchallenged goals over a less-than-three-minute span along with four draw controls to remain firmly in the driver’s seat. It wasn’t until significant damage had already been done that Duke came up with a response. Down 8-3, freshman midfielder Caitlin Barrett took matters into her own hands and dodged inside before sneaking it past Lamparter. Schmalz helped with the miniature comeback effort less than 30 seconds later when she converted a free-position shot. All of a sudden, the Blue Devils were only trailing by three goals.

Clemson, however, once again found a way to respond. After a green card was awarded to junior Kerry Nease, Regan Byrne got a pass in front of the cage from Shannon Brazier and fired it into the net for the man-up goal. Seconds later, Bockstie added one of her three tallies on the day to make it 10-5 in favor of Clemson. Even as DeSimone and attacker Carly Bernstein each added a goal to Duke’s total, the Tigers’ nine goals in one quarter put them squarely ahead.

“They were just really aggressive,” Kimel said. “We tried to run different people, different defenses and call timeouts and try to make some stops in momentum, and we struggled to do that.”

By the time the third quarter started, Clemson was operating like a well-oiled machine. Over the course of the second half, the Tigers continued to steamroll the Blue Devils with a scoring margin of 9-4 while outshooting them 20-9. Up by 10 at one point in the fourth quarter, Clemson never let Duke get within striking distance as it secured the win with a stream of goals.

That’s not to say, however, that the Blue Devils didn’t have flashes of brilliance. Senior Katie Keller exhibited excellent stick skills with a back-handed shovel shot that went between Lamparter’s legs to make it 12-8 early on in the third quarter. DeSimone showed similar offensive brilliance in the twilight of the contest with two late goals in an attempt to stanch the bleeding. Yet no amount of heroics could truly pull Duke back into the game once the Tigers got rolling.

“The offense was pretty efficient, that’s a good thing,” Kimel said. “Defensively, we’ve got to play tougher. We’ve got to find a way to make more stops moving into next week.”

The Blue Devils will look to bounce back Tuesday as they travel to Lynchburg, Va., to take on Liberty before another ACC contest on the road at Syracuse.

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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