DURHAM, N.C. --- The Duke women’s lacrosse team opened the 2008 season on a positive note Friday night, picking up a 16-11 win in Koskinen Stadium over No. 16 Denver. A strong second half in which the Blue Devils opened with five straight goals and outscored the Pioneers, 9-5, made the difference on the evening. The game can be seen on-demand on ACCSelect.com.
Duke went down 2-0 and 4-2 in the early going, and three yellow cards in the first four minutes did not help matters as a player is required to sit for three minutes after being given a card. Also looming was the possibility of having to go down a player if a fourth card was issued at any point in the game. However, the Blue Devils remained card-free the rest of the way.
The Blue Devils stayed in the hunt in the first half mainly on the offensive strength of four freshmen: midfielders Sarah Bullard and Emma Hamm and attackers Christie Kaestner and Morgan Miller. The quartet combined for Duke’s first four goals and finished with a combined five goals and three assists. Hamm led the group with a goal, three dishes, four ground balls and two caused turnovers.
“I thought they made big plays,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel. “They did a really nice job. I’m not surprised--- I thought that they stepped in and played a really nice role for us.”
The game was knotted 4-4 and Duke would go down 5-4 before tying the match with 3:30 left to play in the first stanza on senior attacker Caroline Cryer’s first goal and point of the season. From that point on the Devils would not trail again. Cryer would go on to score another goal and assist on three more, including two late in the game to help put it away.
After taking a 7-6 lead into the locker room, Duke stormed out of the gate in the second period, scoring the first five goals and then using its defense to not allow Denver to get closer than four the rest of the way.
“I felt like we were too excited to play and we weren’t really doing a good job of staying in control of ourselves and we were making silly errors and fouls and we weren’t finishing on our shots,” said Kimel.
“I really just wanted them to relax, get the basics done better and I felt like we were able to do that more so in the second half.”
Junior midfielder Carolyn Davis led all scorers on the night with five goals and one assist. This performance by the native of Skaneateles, N.Y., was especially impressive because she has been fully cleared to play for less than two weeks after suffering a torn ACL in the final game of the 2007 season.
“Our big goal right now is to get her [Davis] into top physical condition so she can run the whole field and get in on our defensive end because she’s really valuable there as well,” said Kimel. “Considering that she’s really just in her second full week of everything I thought she did a great job.”
The Blue Devil defense was strong in front of junior goalkeeper Kim Imbesi, who had eight saves on the night. The defense caused eight turnovers by the Pioneers on the evening.
A big difference in the game was on the draw, where Duke held an 18-11 advantage. Senior midfielder Allie Johnson was dominant in the circle, grabbing five draws in the game.
The Pioneers were led by Karen Morton with three goals and supported by Steph Coyne with two scores and two assists and Megan Carver with two goals and a dish.
The victory was the 12th straight season opening win for the Duke program that is only in its 13th year. It also marked a record 16th straight home victory, a stretch that dates back to April 7, 2006.
The Blue Devils improved to 4-0 all-time against Denver, with three of those four games as season openers (1998, 2007 and 2008) and three of the four coming in the last four seasons.
Duke will travel to Dallas, Texas, for a Sunday matchup with the Stanford Cardinal at 3:00 p.m. ET (2:00 p.m. Central Time). The game will be played at Westcott Field on the campus of Southern Methodist University and marks the first-ever Division I women’s lacrosse game in the state of Texas. Live stats will be available on www.goduke.com.