Following Friday afternoon’s loss to No. 25 Navy, No. 24 Duke needed a way to jumpstart its season. It needed energy, drive and determination. It needed a spark. The Blue Devils found that in a veteran, someone with the skill and prowess to take over a game. It was none other than Katie DeSimone.
Duke trampled High Point 22-14 Sunday afternoon behind a monstrous performance from the senior attacker. The St. Anthony’s product put up seven goals, tying her career high for a single game. She was bolstered by the work of classmate Katie Keller, who posted a career-best herself with five goals. With the win, the Blue Devils earn their first victory of the season and a much-needed boost after falling to the Midshipmen days earlier.
“[We] really made some fantastic adjustments from Friday to today, and I think it showed on the field,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel. “I thought we executed and shot really well.”
After a slow start against Navy, Duke (1-1) was red-hot from the opening whistle. Just 31 seconds in, Keller drew a shooting space foul on junior midfielder Mandy Brockamp. The senior stepped up and sent it to the top right corner of the net to put the Blue Devils up 1-0. Then, DeSimone got to work.
Less than a minute later, senior Maddie McCorkle found the Bay Shore, N.Y., native on the left elbow of the eight-meter arc. DeSimone fired it past goalie Joy Coffey to give Duke the two-goal lead. With one notch in her belt, the attacker wanted more, and cashed in on her next opportunity off a free-position shot after a yellow card was issued to Aryss Lindsey. The senior got her hat trick before the first quarter was over off a give-and-go play with junior attacker Carly Berstein to put Duke up 6-0. Another free-position conversion before 15 minutes were up gave her four goals in the opening stages of play.
“I think [she] did a great job of making sure that the adjustments that we needed to make going into today’s game were made, and I think that was reflected in both the play and how she went on the field today,” Kimel said.
The Panthers (0-1), for their part, did not let the early defeat get to them, and the second quarter was more hotly contested. After Keller and McCorkle each earned woman-up goals, High Point started to chip away at the Blue Devils’ lead. Going on a three-goal scoring streak, the Panthers brought the score to 11-5 in less than two minutes of play.
Duke did not let its opponents get too much momentum, however, as freshman Ellie White got a draw control. She quickly dumped it to graduate midfielder Olivia Carner, who got it to a waiting Bernstein right in front of the goal. The attacker unselfishly passed the ball off to junior Mattie Shearer, who cashed in on the wide-open shot. A Lexi Schmalz rocket seconds later put the Blue Devils back in the driver’s seat at 13-5.
“If they went on a run we always … put an end to it, winning a draw and then taking it down and having a good possession and playing really selflessly as a unit,” Kimel said.
After coming out of halftime 15-6, Duke made an early third-quarter statement in spectacular fashion. Graduate defender Kay Conway got the opening draw control before getting the ball to Shearer, who found DeSimone down low. The senior found Bernstein in front of the cage and threaded the needle to narrowly avoid an interception. The Short Hills, N.J., native deftly pulled off a behind-the-back shot to give the Blue Devils the 16-6 lead. The Panthers and Duke each racked up three more goals in the period to bring the score to 19-9.
Even though the Blue Devils were firmly in control, things got interesting in the fourth quarter as High Point came alive behind the performance of junior attacker Jordan Miles. She scored back-to-back goals in the first two minutes to pull the Panthers within eight. Brockamp drove down the middle of the eight meter 24 seconds later to make it 19-12. Once again, Duke found a way to respond. Once again, DeSimone did the talking.
She cashed in with two more tallies in just more than a five-minute span. Freshman Bella Goodwin got one of her two goals on the day off an assist from classmate Lena Doreen to round out the Blue Devils’ 22 goals. While the Panthers scored two to close out the contest, nothing could reign on Duke’s parade after the squad from Durham already built in a cushion to grab the easy victory.
“I think our best defense today was our offense in terms of how we controlled tempo and how we made sure we finished and capitalized on our possessions,” Kimel said.
The Blue Devils will look to ride the winning wave as they prepare for a two-game homestand next weekend against No. 14 Johns Hopkins and Winthrop.
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Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.