Duke, UNC women look to advance in lacrosse playoffs
Entering the NCAA Tournament without its leading goal scorer puts Duke’s No. 8-ranked women’s lacrosse team in a tough spot.
About the only good thing about the situation is that, heading into today’s first-round tournament game against Princeton at Annapolis, Md., the Blue Devils have had two weeks to prepare for the circumstance.
Senior Makenzie Hommell leads Duke (12-5) in goals with 44 this season. But Hommell suffered a concussion in Duke’s ACC Tournament quarterfinal loss to Virginia on April 26 and has been out of action ever since.
She took a cognition test on Tuesday, and her performance was judged against the baseline test she took before the injury. Hommell said she didn’t achieve the score needed to allow her to return to play.
Since Hommell suffered a head injury in a car accident three years ago, even more caution surrounds her situation.
“I think, with head injuries, you can’t risks,” Duke coach Kerstin Kimel said. “It’s hard because she’s a senior and obviously she’s been a really big part of our offense. But that’s why you have a team. In her absence, other people have stepped up.”
Kimel mentioned freshman Maddie Acton, who had a goal and two assists in Duke’s 18-9 win over Boston University this past Sunday at Koskinen Stadium, as a player who is taking advantage of her opportunity.
Duke senior Lauren Martin said that performance is typical since the Blue Devils have a deep roster.
“This year, as maybe opposed to others, we definitely have the mindset of we are very trustworthy in any player on our team,” Martin said. “We are fully committed to the fact that we have incredible players who are able to fill the shoes of other players.”
The Blue Devils faces a Princeton team that they are familiar with even though the teams didn’t meet this season. The teams played regular-season games in 2011 and 2012, with Duke winning 12-9 in the most recent meeting on March 3, 2012, in Princeton, N.J.
Six Duke players have scored at least one point against Princeton in their careers.
Navy (18-1), the host school for the four-team playoff, plays Monmouth (13-6) today. The winners from today’s games play Sunday at noon at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium.
“We love where we are going and who we are playing.” Martin said. “We are excited about the opportunity to really put forth an incredible effort.”
Meanwhile, ACC Tournament runner-up North Carolina gets a couple of extra days before it opens NCAA Tournament play.
UNC (14-3) has made the national semifinals three times in the past four years — all as the No. 3 seed. The Tar Heels again are seeded third and will play the winner of today’s game between High Point (10-8) and Loyola (10-8) on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Fetzer Field.
UNC is 11-3 against tournament teams this year, including a 15-6 win at High Point on March 12.
The Tar Heels are led by senior Kara Cannizzaro, who was named on Thursday as one of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, the top honor in women’s lacrosse.
The two-time All-ACC selection described herself as “spastic” as a freshman, but said upperclassman Corey Donohoe took her under her wing and settled her down.
“My freshman year was definitely a transition,” Cannizzaro said. “I was just kind of all over the place. I was taken aback by the college game and how fast it was and trying to translate my game from high school to college was hard.”
Now, the midfielder from Cazenovia, N.Y., leads UNC in goals (45), points (61) and caused turnovers (25) and is second in ground balls (28).
“My vision of (her) always will be a bag of balls, out on the field by herself, split-dodging and shooting,” UNC coach Jenny Levy said. “She’s worked really hard all four years, and this honor is well-deserved and it’s also a great honor for our program.”
Cannizzaro is the fourth UNC woman in five years to be named a finalist.