DURHAM, N.C. – Leading 9-7 with just under 22 minutes to play, the Duke women’s lacrosse team was unable to contain visiting Northwestern, falling by a 12-11 score in a back-and-forth battle between two of the nation’s top-five teams Saturday afternoon at Koskinen Stadium.
The fifth-ranked Blue Devils (3-1) surrendered their first loss of the season while No. 4 Northwestern improved to 2-0 on the spring.
“I was really pleased with how physical and hard we played,” said head coach Kerstin Kimel. “What we didn’t do a good job of today is we worked really hard to gain a possession and I didn’t think that we always did our best to maximize those possessions. That’s disappointing because valuing the possession and taking good care of the ball was a big part of our game plan today. But certainly we'll learn a lot from this game.”
Duke led 7-6 following a first half that saw seven ties and two lead changes between the two squads. The Wildcats’ Kate Macdonald quickly made it 7-7 just 20 seconds into the second period, but the Blue Devil defense responded by holding Northwestern scoreless for 15 minutes while markers from senior Sydney Peterson and junior Katie Trees helped the home team build a two-goal lead.
Northwestern’s Alyssa Leonard, who accounted for two scores and 13 draw controls on the day, broke through at the 14:35 mark to spark a 4-0 run. The Wildcats capitalized on Duke turnovers during that span, with Kat DeRonda scoring two goals and Kaleigh Craig adding one. Sophomore Maddy Acton converted on a pass from senior Molly Quirke to cut it to 11-10 with 9:45 remaining before Craig netted her fourth of the day to put Northwestern’s lead back at two.
Junior Kerrin Maurer scored on an acrobatic play with Acton assisting just over a minute later, but the Wildcats would hold the ball for the final six-and-a-half minutes to earn the 12-11 victory.
“What we didn’t want to do was give up a goal right out of the gate and we did [to start the second half],” Kimel said. “That kind of got our defense locked in. But then we kind of let up. We knew that they would be a threat right out of transition and that’s how we gave up a couple of goals. We need to do a better job of making stops when we need them.”
Junior Brigid Smith put Duke on the board first 18 seconds into the contest, and the two teams traded goals for the remainder of the half, with neither leading by more than one. Six different Blue Devils scored during the opening period, with Peterson tallying two and Smith, senior Maddy Morrissey, Quirke, Maurer and junior Taylor Trimble recording one each.
Maurer added a career-high three caused turnovers while freshman defender Isabelle Montagne had two to go along with two ground balls and two draw controls. Senior Taylor Virden also notched two draw controls as well as three ground balls and one caused turnover.
Sophomore goalkeeper Kelsey Duryea posted nine saves against 27 shots by Northwestern, in addition to picking up three ground balls. At the other end, Bridget Bianco registered four saves for the Wildcats in the win.
For the game, Northwestern outshot the Blue Devils 23-17 and won the ground ball battle, 16-15. Leonard paced the squad to a 15-11 advantage at the draw.
Duke’s slate gets no easier next weekend as the team hosts No. 3 Maryland in the ACC opener Saturday, March 1. Opening draw is set for 1 p.m. at Koskinen Stadium.