DeBellis, Everson have career days as Duke women's lacrosse pushes past Virgina in gritty ACC showdown

Graduate attacker Caroline DeBellis celebrates after a goal in Duke's season opener against Johns Hopkins.
Graduate attacker Caroline DeBellis celebrates after a goal in Duke's season opener against Johns Hopkins.

Less than seven minutes into its clash with Virginia, Duke found itself down 2-0. The visiting team seemed to be firing on all cylinders, ready to deliver a disheartening beatdown. Yet four periods later, the Cavaliers’ swords were dull and rusting, while the Blue Devils’ horns were sharp as ever.

Duke handed No. 8 Virginia a 15-10 upset Saturday afternoon in front of a boisterous hometown crowd. Graduate attacker Caroline DeBellis led the charge with a career-high six goals and one assist. The dominant all-around performance marks the team’s second ranked win of the year heading into a difficult stretch to close out the season.

“I think that was the best game we put together…which is awesome,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel. “I’m really proud of our girls for staying focused…believing they could win [and] sticking to the game plan.”

At the start of the second quarter, the Blue Devils and Cavaliers were neck-and-neck. Duke had the 3-2 advantage after scoring three goals in the final three minutes of the first period, but it was Virginia that drew first blood. A heavily-guarded Mackenzie Hoeg — the Cavaliers’ second-leading scorer — managed to find the back of the net, tying the game up at three apiece. 

Her team regained the lead less than three minutes later, after a yellow card on Sydney Smith and a green card on Lexi Schmalz gave Virginia the two-man advantage. Morgan Schwab found Katia Carnevale from behind the cage, and the attacker quick-sticked it past redshirt sophomore goalie Kennedy Everson for the 4-3 lead. It would be the last goal the Cavaliers would score in the quarter.

The Blue Devils took just 21 seconds to put together a response. Junior Kerry Nease won the draw, and the ball made its way into the stick of Katie Keller on the offensive end. The senior midfielder was fouled on her shot attempt and earned a free position opportunity. Keller put a low bounce shot past Virginia goalie Mel Josephson to tie up the contest.

“I thought the best thing is that [we] were really patient,” said Kimel. “We weren’t deterred by the mistakes we made…in a tough ACC game.”

Little did she know, the Rye, N.Y., native’s tally would kick off a 5-0 run for Duke. Three of those goals belonged to none other than Katie DeSimone. The senior put her first on the board in stylish fashion with the help of DeBellis. After getting caught up in front of the cage, the graduate student stickhandled her way past the right side of the goal. Looking like she was headed behind the net, the attacker quickly turned around and passed it to a cutting DeSimone, who used her quick stick abilities to stymie Josephson and give the Blue Devils their largest lead of the game.

Forty-two seconds later, the Bay Shore, N.Y., native got another look at the cage. With multiple defenders on her, DeSimone found a brief window of space in the middle of the eight meter. Using her lethal speed and power, the senior side-armed a shot for her 50th goal of the season. Not yet satisfied with her shooting heroics, the attacking star took on multiple defenders once more before the half was over. This time, she fired a rocket as she was falling down to rack up the hattrick with .8 seconds on the clock. It was all Duke as the scoreboard read 8-4.

“[DeBellis and DeSimone] had to get in a rhythm and figure out what [Virginia was] doing,” said Kimel. “I think once they got that they were able to get their groove.”

Out of the halftime locker room, the Blue Devils never relinquished their precious lead. DeBellis stepped up in the scoring column this time around, getting her own hat trick in the third quarter thanks to teammate Carly Bernstein. The Short Hills, N.J., native found the cutting attacker wide open in the middle of the eight meter. DeBellis faked once before putting it past Josephson for the 9-5 advantage.

Her best goal, however, came with less than three minutes left in the period. Senior midfielder Maddie McCorkle received a pass in front of the goal but was too heavily guarded to get a good look. DeBellis — open once more — cut up from the right side of the cage, and McCorkle dished the ball to her. Faking once, the New Yorker executed a left-handed shovel shot to put Duke up 11-5.

“It’s just my teammates, credit to them,” said DeBellis. “They just found me in the middle, and it happened to be me, the last one finishing it.”

While the Blue Devils got things done offensively, it was their defense that sealed the deal. Everson was on fire between the pipes, tying her career high with 11 saves and stifling the Cavaliers’ potent attackers. Duke also forced Virginia to cough up 12 turnovers en route to the win.

“I think our girls did a really good job of communicating, staying connected,” said Kimel. “Knowing what the looks were, and giving Kennedy shots she can see.”

The Blue Devils will look to ride this momentum into their contest Monday night against Campbell before traveling to South Bend, Ind., to take on No. 6 Notre Dame.

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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