DURHAM, N.C. – With the Duke women’s lacrosse team set to travel to College Park, Md., Saturday, May 18 to face Maryland in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals, GoDuke.com sat down with junior defender and Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association All-America selection Taylor Virden to learn more about the team’s preparations for the matchup.
GoDuke.com: How did last weekend’s NCAA first and second round contests prepare the squad for this Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup with Maryland?
Taylor Virden: It prepared us well both offensively and defensively and on the draw. Against Princeton, our attack had to step up and they were able to do that. I think they gained confidence from showing they could step up in a pressure situation when we needed a goal. Our offense played well against Navy and our defense played exceptionally well. We held the No. 1 scorer in the nation, Jasmine [DePompeo], to zero goals, and I think we gained a lot of confidence in that area. So I think if you combine the two games, we played exceptionally well on offense and defense and going into Maryland, I really think it gave both ends confidence.
GoDuke.com: As one of the team’s leaders at the draw, what has the team been focusing on with that area of the game?
TV: It’s always a work in progress. Although I’ve been successful in past games with the draw, a lot of people have stepped up recently. Molly Quirke was huge in the Princeton game with that last draw, as well as Taylor [Trimble] and Kerrin [Maurer] and people coming off the lines have been awesome. More people can get involved in the draw and I think this past weekend helped us with that. Whoever is willing to go hard and go for the ball is game for it.
GoDuke.com: How have you seen the defensive unit and especially freshman goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea keep improving this spring?
TV: Kelsey really doesn’t show much emotion when she plays, but she gives us confidence with her composure ... It’s a mutual thing – we need her just as much as she needs us. The fact that she’s realized she’s so important to us has given her all the confidence she needs.
GoDuke.com: Both you and Kelsey earned All-America honors from the IWLCA recently – how does it feel to have two Duke defenders represented on the All-America teams?
TV: I’m just so proud of Kelsey. It’s sweet to represent the defenders. It’s awesome to get Duke names on the list, and for Kelsey to get second team as a freshman, it’s phenomenal.
GoDuke.com: As a team co-captain and upperclassmen, how have you been helping your younger teammates get acclimated to NCAA Tournament play?
TV: Honestly, it doesn’t start now in tournament time. When I was a freshman, I knew that the biggest confidence boost came from my older teammates. So I strive to do that from the fall on, talking to younger players that have so much potential. Maddy Acton is someone who came in and was an awesome player. It’s hard as a freshman to believe in yourself as much as somebody else does. In the Princeton game, she stepped up and took it to goal and won us the game in the NCAA Tournament. I think that the confidence derived from that comes from her teammates and telling her all along that we believed in her. That goes for all the freshmen – they always put themselves out there. That just starts from the fall, believing in them and encouraging them to step up and take risks because that’s how you get better.
GoDuke.com: With all the emotions that surround an NCAA Tournament game, how do you maintain composure while still enjoying the experience?
TV: It’s something I sometimes struggle with because I do get excited and I’m very passionate. But when we leave on Friday morning, it’s more of a business trip. We have one mission and one goal, and that’s to win and move forward to the Final Four … We just focus on each other because it’s about what we see in each other. That gets us in the kind of mindset to complete the mission.
GoDuke.com: Looking back on the season, how do you feel about everything the team has accomplished so far?
TV: Something that’s important that [head coach] Kerstin [Kimel] keeps reminding us is when we do look back on our season, we’ve been in a lot of different kind of game situations. We’ve gone into overtime, we’ve been down and came back, we’ve been up and then the team caught up and tied us and we had to figure out a way to win. I know we’ve had ups and downs in our season and we have lost some games that all of us wanted to win, but I think being put in those situations where we got to see what it takes to win has prepared us for anything that’s going to be thrown at us on Saturday and moving forward.