Duke women sink Navy to reach quarterfinals
Reaching the NCAA Tournament’s final eight proved far less taxing for the Duke women’s lacrosse team than winning their first-round game did.
After surviving a double-overtime thriller two days earlier, Duke suffocated Navy defensively Sunday to top the Mids 10-5 in an NCAA Tournament second-round game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
The win propels the Blue Devils (14-5) into a national quarterfinal game at Maryland, the nation’s top-ranked team. That game will be played either Saturday or Sunday with the winner advancing to the NCAA Tournament’s semifinal round at Villanova, Pa.
Duke’s defense held Navy scoreless for a stretch of 41 minutes, 30 seconds over the first and second halves. During that time, the Blue Devils scored seven unanswered goals.
“I’m very proud of our team,” Duke coach Kerstin Kimel said. “We’re calling on a lot of different kids to do different things and play outside of the roles they otherwise would play for us. It’s what we want this time of year — you want people stepping up and that’s what we have right now.”
Six different players scored goals for Duke, which played this weekend without its leading goal-scorer, Makenzie Hommel. After suffering a concussion during last month’s ACC Tournament, Hommel has yet to be cleared to return to play.
In her absence, Duke thrived with a balanced attack against Navy. Kelci Smesko totaled five points (three goals, two assists) while sophomore Taylor Trimble had four points (three goals, one assist) and fellow sophomore Kerrin Maurer three points (two goals, one assist).
Navy got off to a strong start taking a 4-2 lead with 19:50 left in the first half.
But Duke shut the Mids down and grabbed its first lead a little more than eight minutes later,
capitalizing on a pair of caused turnovers by senior defender Mie Graham to rattle off three consecutive scores. Junior Molly Quirke and Maurer each provided unassisted tallies and Trimble contributed a free position goal to put Duke up 5-4.
The Blue Devil defense kept the Mids off the board for the remainder of the period, and Trimble wrapped a ball around the post on a Smesko feed with 11 seconds remaining to give Duke a 6-4 halftime lead.
“We made a small adjustment after the first couple goals, and I felt like once we did that, it disrupted Navy’s rhythm,” Kimel said. “That was our goal – take them out of what they want to do. And I thought our kids did that very successfully.”
The scoring burst continued for the Duke attack in the second half, as Smesko found Trimble again and Maurer converted on a dish from junior Maddy Morrissey. Smesko then netted the Blue Devils’ seventh unanswered goal on a Maurer assist to push the score to 9-4 with 20 minutes remaining.
“Today has been the most rhythmic and transition-oriented offense that we’ve felt in a while,” Trimble said. “That’s been our focus for the past few weeks – really being confident with the ball, carry strong with the ball, going back to basics. Just working on that for the past few weeks has really come together for us.”
Freshman goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea was solid in the net during the Duke run. The defensive unit also powered the squad to a perfect 15-of-15 on the day in clearing attempts and edged Navy in ground balls, 13-11, with Duryea and Quirke picking up three each. Duryea also reached double-digits in the saves column with 10 against 22 Navy shots.