Blue Devils know challenge they face against No. 1 Terps
The task facing Duke’s women’s lacrosse team today is as daunting as it gets.
The Blue Devils need a win to reach their sport’s version of the Final Four. But to get there, Duke must win at No. 1-ranked and unbeaten Maryland (noon, CBSSports.com).
The Blue Devils knows exactly what kind of talent they will face today in College Park, Md. When Duke and Maryland met in ACC play on Feb. 24 on the same field, the Terrapins jumped to a 9-2 lead and posted an easy 15-6 win.
That, however, doesn’t have Duke (14-5) lacking confidence.
“It wasn’t our best showing, and I think we’ve done a lot of improving, as have they,” Duke freshman goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea said. “We are all just really excited to go back up there and give them a run for their money. We all really think that they are a beatable team. We think we can go up there and get the W.”
Blue Devils coach Kerstin Kimel inserted Duryea in goal at halftime of the Maryland game. In her collegiate debut, Duryea stopped 50 percent of Maryland’s shots — making eight saves — in the second half that day.
She’s gone on to earn All-American honors, starting all 14 contests since then. She is fourth nationally in save percentage and 15th in saves per game.
“You certainly can’t ask much more of a freshman goalkeeper than we’ve asked of her,” Kimel said. “For her first competition to be down 9-2 at half against Maryland — get in there and give it your best, kid. To maintain a 50 percent save percentage in that game is pretty phenomenal. I think she’s a special kid in that way.”
But at the same time, Kimel knows all of the Blue Devils must excel if Duke is to pull the upset. It starts, she said, with their approach from the beginning of today’s game.
“Our first game, we were not aggressive at all,” Kimel said. “We clearly got into a hole against them, but I think we’ve evolved a lot since then. So I’m looking forward to going up there and giving them a real challenge.”
Duke faced a pair of difficult challenges a week ago to survive to this weekend’s NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. Playing in Annapolis, Md., the Blue Devils topped Princeton 10-9 in double-overtime on May 10. On Sunday, playing Navy on the Mids’ home field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Duke won 10-5.
“We’re in a good place right now,” Kimel said. “We’ve done a good job the latter half of the season putting in new things and adjusting on the fly. Our experience from last weekend has us feeling really good about going up to Maryland. We know it’s a challenge. We have nothing to lose. They haven’t lost a game all year.”
Duke has played without its leading goal-scorer, Makenzie Hommel, for the past three weeks after she suffered a concussion in the ACC Tournament and has missed three games.
She was cleared to practice again this week but only went through non-contact drills on Thursday. So Kimel is reluctant to count on Hommel today.
“Is she going to be mentally ready to step in and play a high-level game? I don’t know, so we’ll see,” Kimel said. “(It’s) one day at a time with her. As coaches, you just kind of accept the fact that you are not going to have someone in your lineup.”