Spurred by McCorkle's 5 goals, No. 25 Duke women's lacrosse takes down Louisville in home finale on senior day

Duke players celebrate during their senior day win against Louisville.
Duke players celebrate during their senior day win against Louisville.

In its final regular-season home game Friday afternoon, Duke had a lot on the line — a win on senior day and a guaranteed first-round bye in the ACC tournament. After 40 minutes of back-and-forth play, the Blue Devils delivered.

No. 25 Duke narrowly escaped the upset bid, closing out the 14-11 win against Louisville with a fourth-quarter hat trick from senior midfielder Maddie McCorkle, who totaled five, a new career-high. The Cardinals’ star Kokoro Nakazawa pushed the Blue Devil defense with five goals of her own, but Duke held strong, even with its own star on the sidelines for the final 15 minutes.

“I think it was the grittiest game we played all year,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel. “What I’m so happy about is just how we hung in there the whole game and just kept playing.”

With 20 seconds left to go in the third quarter, disaster struck. After a bounce shot from senior Katie Keller put the Blue Devils (10-6, 4-4 in the ACC) up 10-8, junior Kerry Nease earned the draw control and got the ball to senior Katie DeSimone in the offensive end. The attacker turned the ball over, but true to form, went sprinting across the field as Louisville attempted to clear the ball. DeSimone collided with a Cardinal defender on the receiving end of a pass, instantly hitting the ground. As teammates helped her to the bench, the referee issued a non-releasable yellow card to the Duke star.

Louisville (7-9, 2-6), after going down two goals, suddenly had momentum on its side. Thirty seconds into the fourth quarter, graduate midfielder Nicole Perroni cashed in on a free-position shot during the man-up opportunity. With a precious one-goal lead now hanging in the balance, the Blue Devils’ defense locked things down for several minutes as both teams traded shots without drawing blood. 

Nakazawa, however, eventually struck for the Cardinals with her fourth tally of the afternoon. Dodging through several defenders, she sliced straight toward the cage and found her mark to tie the contest at 10 apiece. Graduate midfielder Olivia Carner responded for Duke with a low bounce shot to regain the lead, refusing to let DeSimone’s injury take the team down. 

“I just thought our kids weren’t fazed by [DeSimone going out] in a good way,” Kimel said. “We just stuck to the game plan.”

Then, McCorkle came alive.

With a little less than six minutes on the clock, redshirt freshman Eva Pronti held the ball behind the cage as the senior prepared to make her run. Streaking toward the cage, Pronti fed McCorkle, who fired a shot at the top-right corner of the cage at an impossible angle. Just like that, the Blue Devils were up 12-10.

But McCorkle wasn’t done with the heroics. She pulled off the unbelievable a few minutes later, after Nakazawa brought the lead back to one on the previous possession. With seconds left on the shot clock, freshman Bella Goodwin threw a pass up in the air for the Hanover, N.H., native. McCorkle leapt several feet into the air and quick-sticked it past Sara Addeche between the pipes, getting the Koskinen Stadium crowd on its feet for the 13-11 lead. She would go on to tally her fifth goal of the game with less than a minute left to get the 14-11 victory.

“She saw the cage and she finished,” Kimel said. “The performance in the fourth quarter … made up for [two missed opportunities earlier].”

The first few minutes seemed to spell disaster for the home team. Coming off a tough road loss to now-No. 5 Notre Dame, Duke needed a rebound. The Cardinals weren’t going to let that come easy. Negai Nakazawa won the opening draw after a Nease violation, and Louisville was off. It blazed out to a 3-0 lead in the first seven minutes. 

Junior midfielder Mattie Shearer got the Blue Devils on the board more than nine minutes into the contest, drawing a shooting space call with just five seconds remaining on the shot clock. From the left side of the eight-meter, she fired straight past Addeche’s feet in goal. Less than three minutes later, DeSimone passed out of a free-position opportunity, finding a driving McCorkle as she crossed in front of the net. On the defensive end, team adjustments allowed them to keep Nakazawa from doing more damage.

“We played more zone today than we’ve played a lot this season,” Kimel said. “So I thought our kids did a good job of being in and out of defenses today.”

The second period was 15 minutes of tight back-and-forth. After struggling in the circle to start, the Duke draw-control team — Nease, Keller and freshman Reese Woodworth — got into a rhythm, winning all eight entering the break. The midfield defense also did its job, breaking up two clear attempts. However, Addeche snapped up more than half the shots that came her way. 

Redshirt sophomore Kennedy Everson boasted similar success between Duke’s pipes with three consecutive free-position saves to start the second period. The Blue Devil defense started locking down Kokoro’s drives, slowing Louisville’s attack so it could catch up, then keep pace, on the other end. 

Duke has one more regular-season contest, a finale at its rival North Carolina, before kicking off ACC tournament play in the quarterfinals. 

Rachael Kaplan profile
Rachael Kaplan | Sports Managing Editor

Rachael Kaplan is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

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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