Duke women's lacrosse survives back-and-forth battle with No. 22 Harvard for first ranked win since 2022

Courtney Kaufman came up with some huge saves against Harvard.
Courtney Kaufman came up with some huge saves against Harvard.

April 16, 2022.

That was the last time Duke women’s lacrosse faced off against a ranked opponent and pulled off a victory, defeating Boston College 16-15. Since that game, a top-25 win seemed elusive for the Blue Devils — until Tuesday.

Duke took down No. 22 Harvard in a thrilling 15-13 contest that went down to the wire. Senior attacker Katie DeSimone was once again the hero, ratcheting up four goals and three assists in the matchup. Junior Carly Bernstein helped with a three-goal, three-assist performance of her own to push the Blue Devils over the edge. The victory gave Duke its first win streak of the season and some much-needed momentum heading into a difficult ACC slate.

“I felt like [it] was the most complete game we’ve played all season,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel. “We really were unfazed the whole game … mentally and emotionally.”

It all came down to the fourth quarter. After going back and forth all game, the Blue Devils (5-4, 1-2 in the ACC) finally pulled themselves within one of the lead in the twilight of the third period after the Crimson’s Grace Mullahy turned it over on the defensive end. Redshirt junior Julia Schwasnick picked up the ground ball and sent a long-range pass forward to DeSimone. The senior turned and fired it to attacker Caroline DeBellis, who faked out the keeper for the fast-break goal. Heading into the final 15 minutes of play, Duke was down 12-11.

Seconds in, the Blue Devils got their golden opportunity after a Kerry Nease draw control turned into a green card for Harvard’s Charlotte Hodgson. Utilizing the man-up opportunity, DeBellis chose to repay DeSimone. The graduate student found the Bay Shore, N.Y., native inside, who then found her mark as she fired it past Crimson goalie Chloe Provenzano. Just like that, Duke tied things up at 12-12.

“We played really composed in key moments that allowed us to make stops and also capitalize,” Kimel said.

Harvard (4-1) refused to give up, however, and found the lead once more less than five minutes later. On a woman-down possession after a green card was issued to Riley Campbell, sophomore attacker Kate Izzo put a pass into Hodgson. The midfielder converted the shot and got the best of Courtney Kaufman — who was subbed in late in the fourth quarter to replace Kennedy Everson — to put her team up 13-12. Little did she know, it would be the last point the team put on the board.

Nease got the next draw control, but a turnover by freshman Bella Goodwin allowed the Crimson to get a chance to extend their lead. Harvard leading scorer Callie Hem got a look at the net, but the shot bounced wide. Seconds later, Campbell turned the ball over, and senior Maddie McCorkle quickly scooped it up before charging to the other end. In the blink of an eye, Mattie Shearer fired a pass into DeSimone, who deftly grabbed it out of the air and fired it past Provenzano.

The Crimson kept pushing the Blue Devils to their limits as a shot by Ilana Kofman threatened to put Harvard in the lead again. However, Kaufman’s goalie shorts came to the rescue as the ball seemingly bounced up into her gear to prevent tragedy from striking. Duke successfully cleared it, and a three-second foul on Annabel Child gave Goodwin a free-position opportunity. She could not convert as Provenzano came up with a save of her own. The Crimson came charging at the Blue Devils, and a call on Olivia Carner gave Hodgson a free-position look. 

It came down to Kaufman, and she delivered. The Tufts transfer stopped the shot, allowing Duke to clear it for the chance at the lead. Carner made up for her error on the defensive end by drawing a shooting space foul with 3:15 left to play in the fourth quarter. The Northport, N.Y., native expertly drove at the cage off the free-position opportunity and put the ball right over the stickside of Provenzano. The Blue Devil sideline erupted as Duke took the lead, 14-13.

“There’s a difference between lining up and seeing Kennedy in the cage and then seeing someone as tall as Courtney. And I think that it had the desired effect,” Kimel said.

But the home team wasn’t quite finished. Goodwin once again won the draw, and head coach Kimel called a timeout to prepare to run out the clock. The Blue Devils were largely successful, holding onto the ball despite two Harvard fouls. However, with the shot clock winding down, Duke needed to act quickly to prevent the Crimson from tying the contest up again. Senior Katie Keller scooped up an errant ground ball and looked for a teammate to execute the last-ditch effort. She found Shearer.

The junior midfielder received the pass from Keller on the hash right off the right elbow of the eight-meter arc. Stepping in with confidence, she launched a missile of a shot right as the shot-clock buzzer sounded. The rocket was too much for Provenzano to stop, and the Blue Devils got the two-goal lead. 96 seconds later, the referee’s final whistle blew, and Duke’s bench players rushed the field.

“I thought that was just such a clutch play,” Kimel said. “So well placed and really sealed the deal for us.”

Riding the high of their ranked win, the Blue Devils will now prepare to return to conference play as they face Virginia Tech on the road Saturday.

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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