No. 25 Duke women's lacrosse misses DeSimone's firepower, drops regular-season finale at North Carolina

Carly Bernstein's career day wasn't enough against North Carolina.
Carly Bernstein's career day wasn't enough against North Carolina.

CHAPEL HILL—No. 25 Duke, boasting an explosive but inconsistent offense, faced a near-impossible task at its rival Thursday afternoon: Win without Katie DeSimone. 

That challenge begged a question: Who would replace the team’s leading scorer? Could anyone? Carly Bernstein was at least going to try. 

The junior attacker’s career-high four goals weren’t enough, though, as the Blue Devils dropped their regular-season finale to the 15th-ranked Tar Heels 16-11 Thursday afternoon at Dorrance Field.

“It's a rivalry game,” head coach Kirsten Kimel said. “You always want to play well, and I think we competed really hard. I just don’t think we played smart at times, and that hurt us.”

It was a one-goal game coming out of the break before North Carolina broke through and pulled away. Both sides traded free position scores in the opening 90 seconds of the second half, with Caroline Godine breaking through on an attempt that bounced right around the crease and Bella Goodwin drove in for the low score. From then on, it was just about all Tar Heels. Caitlyn Wurzburger and Darcy Felter each scored twice. Bernstein’s solo shot curling around the crease did little to slow the onslaught from the home team. 

When Ashley Humphrey scored just more than a minute into the second quarter, the game seemed to be heading the way of Duke’s lopsided losses to Boston College and Notre Dame. When the Blue Devils (10-7, 4-5 in the ACC) lost the ensuing draw, it looked like the deficit would only grow. But Julia Schwasnick caused a turnover and Bernstein drove into the eight-meter, spun around her defender, faked high and fired a shot low past Tar Heel goalie Alicia Nicholas’ feet. Katie Keller won the next draw, and a North Carolina green card put Olivia Carner on the eight-meter with a man-up advantage. The graduate midfielder drove in for the solo goal. A few minutes later, Lexi Schmalz drove on her own free-position shot and fed the shovel shot into the back of the net. One-goal game.

The Tar Heels (10-5, 6-3) wouldn’t score again until the clock dipped below six minutes in the first half, when Godine sidearmed a missile around a defending Reilly Traynor, ending North Carolina’s seven-minute drought. 

The quarter continued on, with each defense clamping down and each goalie swallowing up whatever came their way, until the clock dipped below a minute. Duke had possession after senior Maddie McCorkle forced a turnover on the other end. Bernstein got the final touch with a high shot past Nicholas. That 8-7 score lasted the final 27 seconds until the break. 

“We got off to a little bit of slow start, but kind of battled back,” Kimel said. “ And we've done that this season. So I don't think we were uncomfortable being down one.”

The visitors got on the board first after empty possessions on both sides. With the shot clock winding down, Pronti tested the waters inside the eight-meter, drawing a foul and setting herself up on the far-left side of the inner arc. The redshirt freshman attacker bounced it by Nicholas. The North Carolina offense responded as soon as it got the chance, after its defense forced a turnover by Carner. 

Olivia Dirks, from the very same part of the eight-meter as Pronti, beat her defender on the drive for the cross-goal score. Twenty-two seconds later, Caroline Godine came around the back of the crease for a low shot of her own. 

But just as it felt like the tides were turning, that DeSimone’s absence would leave too great a hole on the scoresheet, Humphrey drew a green card, and with the extra space in their offensive one, freshman midfielder Bella Goodwin lobbed the ball over the cage from behind the crease, right into Bernstein’s waiting stick at point-blank range. 2-2. 

“Carly did a great job stepping up…” said Kimel. “She was smart with her takes to goal. She obviously distributed the ball well, too.”

The back-and-forth looked like it would continue, as each side notched another goal. But then the Tar Heels won three straight draw controls, and before the Blue Devils touched the ball again they were down 6-3 with the opening period nearing its end. When they did finally get an opportunity when Kerry Nease brought in a messy draw, Pronti turned it over. Then Keller did. Then the Tar Heels’ Sam Forrest, then Bernstein. The quarter ended on a sequence of failed clears and fouls. 

Duke kicks off its postseason in the ACC tournament in Charlotte Wednesday as the No. 6-seed. It will take on No. 3-seed Boston College at 8 p.m. 

Rachael Kaplan profile
Rachael Kaplan | Sports Managing Editor

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


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