DURHAM, N.C. – Facing an early three-goal deficit and unfavorable playing conditions, the No. 3 Duke women’s lacrosse team utilized an 8-1 run midway through the second half to capture a 14-12 victory against No. 13 Vanderbilt on Wednesday evening from a rain-soaked Koskinen Stadium.
The two teams were evenly matched in both shots and ground balls as Duke led, 26-25 and 22-19, respectively. Vanderbilt controlled the tempo in the opening period, winning seven draw controls to three for the Blue Devils, but Duke dominated the draw in the second frame by a margin of 13-5.
“I’m really proud of our team,” head coach Kerstin Kimel said. “The conditions were really, really challenging and our kids played like warriors tonight. We had a couple specific things coming into this game that we wanted to work on, in particular the draw, which we were able to dominate in the second half. I was really pleased, given the field conditions, that we were able to pull out a really hard fought win tonight.”
Redshirt junior Emma Hamm was key to the Blue Devils’ offense with all four of her goals coming during Duke’s 8-1 run. Hamm also chipped in an assist and seven draw controls. Freshman Molly Quirke, who also contributed four caused turnovers and three ground balls, kept Duke in the game early on, registering three first-half goals including the first of her collegiate career at the 21:18 mark. Sophomore Makenzie Hommel also notched three scores, while senior Christie Kaestner added a goal and two assists.
Vanderbilt won the first three draws of the evening and looked to slow down the pace of play in the early going. The Commodores’ game plan proved effective as Vanderbilt jumped out to a 3-0 lead after consecutive free position goals from Emily Franke.
Even though a steady rain began to fall, Duke’s offense was able to adjust as Quirke provided a spark with three unanswered goals to even the score at 3-3 with 8:10 left in the first half.
A goal from Kaestner at the 4:04 mark would tie the game at four-all, but Vanderbilt’s Meghan Rose gave the Commodores the one-goal edge heading into the intermission with an unassisted score two minutes later. The Blue Devils, despite outshooting Vanderbilt 12-10 in the opening frame, trailed 5-4 heading into halftime, and would find themselves down 6-4 early in the second period.
Two minutes into the second half, back-to-back goals from sophomore Makenzie Hommel and junior Kat Thomas tied the game at six-all before Hamm took over, scoring the next four Duke goals to give the Blue Devils a lead they would not relinquish. Thomas and Hommel capped off the Devils’ 8-1 run with another pair of back-to-back goals in just under a minute to give Duke a 12-7 cushion heading into the final 18 minutes of play.
“Our offense was so poised in the second half,” Kimel added. “We came out of the half down one and it would be very easy for an offense to be tentative or worried, and I felt like the tempo with which we played in the second half helped us produce goals and good looks. We changed what we were running on offense and that really helped, too. We got a nice dodge goal from Kat [Thomas] and we had some really good looks with Emma [Hamm]. I thought we just did a really nice job of adjusting and playing our game in the second half.”
Vanderbilt’s Ally Carey, who led the Commodores with four goals, picked up two unassisted goals to cut the Duke lead to three with 12 minutes to play. The Commodores would pull within two as the clock ticked under six minutes, but the Devils’ defense did not let Vanderbilt come any closer the rest of the way.
Junior goalie Mollie Mackler registered her second consecutive game with 10 saves to preserve the win, making several key stops down the stretch to protect the Duke lead.