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Women's Lacrosse Takes Down Syracuse

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Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

In ACC lacrosse—and it’s equally true for men’s and women’s teams—the ability (or inability) to bounce back from a conference loss can make or break a season. On Saturday, the Duke women got the bounce-back win they needed. Led by an enormous performance by Kelsey Duryea in net and an opportunistic offense, the Blue Devils never let the Orange get a lead and held on to win 10-9.

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The Orange came in with three losses, all to ranked teams and by a total of five goals. Duke welcomed defender Isabelle Montaigne back to the lineup after missing the first ten games due to injury, and the Blue Devils’ didn’t miss a beat, holding Syracuse almost five goals below its season scoring average and well below its season shooting percentage and offensive efficiency. Unlike several Syracuse opponents this season, Duke did not go to a gimmick defense to shut off high-scoring attacker Kayla Treanor, and while she got a hat trick, she wasn’t able to impose her will on the game, thanks to an outstanding performance by Duke’s Claire Scarrone.

The teams took turns scoring on their opening possessions; a goal by Brigid Smith 36 seconds into the game was matched by Syracuse’s Riley Donahue 59 seconds later. After that, the defenses dug in, forced multiple turnovers, and it took over 14 minutes for Maddie Crutchfield to restore Duke’s lead on a free-position shot. Kerrin Maurer won the ensuing draw to herself and found Katie Trees alone in front 18 seconds later. After Duryea stoned Haile Majorana on a free-position attempt, Duke was able to clear, and Crutchfield scored from the slot to give Duke a 4-1 lead with 9:44 to go in the half. Syracuse coach Gary Gait called time out, and whatever was said in the huddle had the desired effect, as the Orange erased Duke’s lead with a three-goal run of their own. After a Duke turnover with 1:56 to go in the half, Syracuse could have held for the last shot, but they chose to attack; Duryea came up with another big save, Duke cleared, and after a shooting-space foul wiped out an apparent goal by Taylor Trimble, she converted the free-position opportunity with 0:03 left to send Duke to the locker room with a one-goal lead.

Syracuse went on an extended possession to start the second half, but the Duke defense held firm; the ball ended up in the Duke net after a great save by Duryea on Donahue, but the apparent goal was wiped out by a goaltender-interference call. Duke eventually forced a turnover, and Smith scored her second of the game on a free-position attempt. Taylor Poplawski and Treanor scored within a 2-1/2 minute stretch to tie it at six, but Maurer again won the draw to herself, dished to Chelsea Landon in transition, and buried the return pass to put Duke back on top. It was the first of four goals in 3:20, as the teams traded transition opportunities. Duke couldn’t pull away, and Syracuse couldn’t pull ahead. After Erica Bodt’s goal tied it at eight with 21:21 to go, the Orange won the draw and went for the lead, but Duryea stopped Donahue, Duke cleared, and the Blue Devils got back-to-back goals from Smith (on a feed from behind by Kyra Harney) and Katie Trees (who beat her defender and the help in the right alley) to take a 10-8 lead with 17:13 to go. Duke would not score again, and when Gait scored her second of the game from a sharp angle deep in the right alley with 9:05 to go, the stage was set for a nail-biting finish. Syracuse won the draw, cleared, and Majorana beat her defender to get to the front, but Duryea once again had the answer. Duke corralled the ground ball, cleared, and took almost three minutes off the clock before Orange goaltender Kelsey Richardson returned the favor with a miraculous save on Trimble. Syracuse came up with the ground ball and called time out to set up a clear and an offensive set, but Trimble had other ideas. A sensational trail-check on Brenna Rainone on the clear put the ball on the ground for Scarrone to scoop up, but she lost it under pressure from Majorana, who in turn lost it to Trees. Trees smartly ran away from trouble, Duke went to a spread offense, and the Blue Devils were able to run out the last 2:11.

Smith had a hat trick to lead the Blue Devil offense. Crutchfield and Trees had a pair each, and Maurer, Trimble, and Landon contributed single markers. Crutchfield led an aggressive defensive effort with four caused turnovers. Duryea had nine saves.

Treanor led Syracuse with three goals, Gait had two, and four Orange players had a goal each. Only one of Syracuse’s nine goals was assisted, a tribute to Duke’s off-ball defense. Richardson had three saves.

Syracuse shot 40.9 percent on the way to 39.1 percent offensive efficiency, both well below its season averages. Duke shot 58.8 percent (10 for 17) on the way to 38.5 percent offensive efficiency, which was just enough because the Blue Devils had a plus-three possession margin. Maurer and Trimble combined to go 10 for 21 on draws against a Syracuse unit that came in with a 62.8 winning percentage.

Duke moves to 10-1, 4-1 in the ACC. Syracuse falls to 8-4, 1-2 in the ACC.

Duke welcomes Davidson for a mid-week, non-conference battle at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday before traveling to ACC-leading Boston College on Saturday at 1:00 p.m.