Duke women's lacrosse outlasts Virginia Tech in defensive road battle, extends win streak to three

Freshman midfielder Caitlin Barrett fires a shot off in Duke's loss against Clemson.
Freshman midfielder Caitlin Barrett fires a shot off in Duke's loss against Clemson.

Philosopher George Santayana once said, “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” After a heartbreaking triple overtime loss to the Hokies in the 2023 campaign, the Blue Devils headed to Blacksburg, Va., determined not to let history repeat itself. They returned home with a hardfought 9-8 win and a three-game win streak. 

Both offenses were streaky in the first half, whereas the second proved a defensive battle. Duke put together a 5-0 scoring run to go up 6-2 in the second quarter and Virginia Tech answered with a 4-0 run of their own. The Blue Devils headed to the locker room narrowly leading 7-6, and aggressive defense characterized the final 30 minutes and led to only a combined four goals. When it got down to crunch time, Duke caused several timely turnovers on defense and redshirt sophomore goalie Kennedy Everson stood tall between the pipes with nine saves for a 0.529 save percentage, including two late in the fourth quarter to ice the game for the Blue Devils. 

Down by one, Virginia Tech came out of the break ready and scored almost right off the draw, but the Hokies wouldn’t find the back of the net again for another twenty minutes as Duke (6-4, 2-2 in the ACC) fought tooth and nail to not let this year’s matchup slip through its fingers. With one second left on the shot clock, graduate midfielder Lexi Schmalz cashed in on a powerful bounce shot from downtown for the go-ahead goal that generated much needed momentum after a few scrappy possessions.

Immediately after her goal, Schmalz won a major possession off the draw and Duke’s attack went back to work. Graduate midfielder Olivia Carner had a free position opportunity, but opted to pass to senior Katie DeSimone, who cut down the middle of the eight meter in signature fashion. The attacker put a low shot past Virginia Tech’s Lilly Kannapell for Duke’s final tally of the day.

The final period was a dogfight — with nine total turnovers — and although the Blue Devil attack didn’t convert respective man-up and free position opportunities, the defense came up big on the other end. With just over three minutes remaining, Duke’s pressure forced a bad shot from attacker Ella Rishko on a free position opportunity, then caused a shot clock violation to get the ball back up by one with just more than a minute left. 

While defense carried the Blue Devils across the finish line, their offense was firing in the first half. 

Halfway through the first quarter, Virginia Tech (6-4, 1-3) turned the ball over and Duke came barreling the other way in transition. Senior midfielder Katie Keller brought it down into her own attacking third, then took it straight to the cage. Keller drove left into the eight meter, stopped, then spun back right and hurled a low sidearm shot between two crashing defenders for a solo goal to tie the game at two and kickstart Duke’s five-goal run. 

The Blue Devils broke through again off a long lefty rip from the right side of the eight meter from junior midfielder Mattie Shearer, and after a series of yellow cards, Duke’s offense headed into the second quarter playing seven on five lacrosse. 

Not going to be denied while two men up, freshman midfielder Bella Goodwin converted junior attacker Carly Bernstein’s feed from the wing of the crease, and when the Hokies picked up yet another yellow card off the draw, Duke found itself two men up yet again. Bernstein had a free position opportunity on the right side and passed to DeSimone, cutting down the middle. DeSimone’s shot went high, but 10 seconds later Bernstein fed her again and the nation’s leading goal scorer wouldn’t miss a second time. She went low for her 43rd goal of the season in 10 games. 

After a classic give-and-go play for senior midfielder Maddie McCorkle’s first goal of the day, Virginia Tech staunched the bleeding and mounted a run of its own. In one minute and seven seconds of play, the Hokies put three in the back of the net, and two scores came right off the draw. 

Within five minutes, Hokie graduate student Paige Tyson went from scoreless to a hat trick. Virginia Tech exploited the Blue Devils inefficiency on the draw circle and punished them. It won seven of eight draw controls in the quarter and kept Duke from running away with the lead before halftime. With only a one-goal differential going into the locker room, it was still very much anyone’s game.   

Though the Hokies dominated on the draw circle with 15 draw controls to the Blue Devils’ five, Duke’s attack spread the ball effectively to wear down the Virginia Tech defense. Seven different Blue Devils got on the scoresheet for their nine goals. When offensive production slowed in the final frame, defense shouldered the burden and Duke emerged after 60 minutes, avenging last year's loss with an all-around team win. 

It will look to build on its win streak  Saturday afternoon at home in a big-time ACC matchup against No. 2 Boston College. 


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