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Wlax: Duke Advances to ACC Semifinals

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Year in and year out, Quarterfinal Thursday in the ACC women’s lacrosse tournament provides the most high-quality women’s college lacrosse you can see in one place on one day, and the 2015 edition was no exception. The top seeds, North Carolina and Duke, survived challenges from Virginia Tech and Louisville, while the number three and four seeds, Boston College and Virginia, were "upset" by Syracuse and Notre Dame in pulsating one-goal games.

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Duke 14, Louisville 7: In a game that was marred by 44 fouls (28 against the Cardinals) and five yellow cards, Duke used three extended defensive stands to take the lead midway through the first half, protect the lead early in the second, and ultimately put the game away.

Duke’s Kerrin Maurer won the opening draw (she would win six in a row to start the game before Louisville’s Kaylin Morisette finally got rolling toward a 14-22 day in the center circle), and Katie Trees opened the scoring 1:28 into the game on a dodge to the middle. After Trees hit the post on Duke’s next possession, the Cardinals cleared, and Morisette found Anna Kopecka in the slot for a spinning finish to start a 3-0 Louisville run. After Morisette scored to make it 3-1 with 21:18 to go, the Duke defense stiffened, holding the Cardinals scoreless for almost 17 minutes, and Duke put up five unanswered goals to take a three-goal lead. Maddy Acton got the run started with a goal from the left alley, and Taylor Trimble got away from Emily Kolsevich in front to cash in a feed from Kyra Harney. Brigid Smith, Acton, and Trimble added goals to make it 6-3 with 4:40 to go, but Louisville got one back seven seconds later; Morisette won the draw to herself, sprinted through the Duke midfield to create a 2-on-1 break, and fed Kelli Gerding for an easy finish. Duryea made a fine save on Morisette with eight seconds to go. and Duke went to the break with a two-goal lead. Louisville was guilty of 14 fouls in the half, but Duke failed to take advantage, going 0-8 on free-position attempts.

The Cardinals’ Hannah Kolowski converted a free-position attempt 1:02 into the second half to make it a one-goal game, and Louisville had a golden opportunity to tie when Trees received a yellow card for dissent after getting hammered by two defenders in the slot without a foul being called. However, a silly turnover—the Cardinals jumped the whistle on the restart—gave the ball back to Duke, which spread the field and killed off the two-minute man-down situation. Duke retained possession after Louisville goaltender Courtney Peacock saved yet another free-position try, and Maddie Crutchfield scored with 24:26 to go to start a four-goal Duke run that broke the game open. Duke killed off another man-down situation when Duryea stopped a Kacee Daley shot from in close, and after the Blue Devils cleared, Erin Tenneson scored a spectacular goal from a sharp angle deep in the right alley, ripping the ball to the opposite top corner and in off the post. Acton got her second of the game on a free-position chance, and Emma Lazaroff fed Maurer to make it 10-5 with 17:27 to go. Louisville got two back in the next three minutes: Daley converted a free-position attempt, and Carissa Corbett found a seam between two Duke defenders to convert a feed from Morisette to make it 10-7 with 14:34 to go. The Cardinals would not score again. Duke killed off one more man-down situation, cleared, and spread the field to run a deliberate offense. After the Cardinals forced a Duke turnover, they called time out to set up their clear and go on offense—but they never got there. A sensational wraparound check by Chelsea Landon on Louisville goaltender Brittany Read 30 yards out from goal put the ball on the ground, Landon got to it first, and she raced away to deposit it in the empty net with 4:36 to go. Off the ensuing draw, Corbett was yellow-carded for a hit to the face, and Duke converted the man-up opportunity, Maurer finding a cutting Trees for the goal. Maurer tacked on two more in the last minute, and Duke advanced to the semifinals.

Smith led the Duke offense with five points (1g, 4a). Maurer and Acton had hat tricks, Trimble and Trees chipped in a pair each, and three other Blue Devils had one goal. Duryea contributed five saves. Duke out-shot the Cardinals 26-13 and won the ground ball battle 14-7. A seven-possession deficit didn’t slow down the Duke offense; the Blue Devils shot 53.8 percent on the way to a superb 66.7 percent offensive efficiency. Maurer now has 264 career points, 24 away from becoming Duke’s all-time scoring leader.

Morisette led Louisville with a goal and three assists. Six other Cardinals had one goal apiece. Peacock had four saves. Louisville shot 53.8 percent, but couldn’t take advantage of possession margin, managing only 25 percent offensive efficiency.

Duke meets Syracuse in Friday’s second semifinal, at 3:00 Eastern. The game will be shown on the Fox regional networks and ESPN3. Louisville goes home, and goes home as a bubble team. The Cardinals, despite their high ranking in the polls, are only number 21 in the RPI; upsets in other conference tournaments (particularly the Big East and Mountain Pacific) could knock them out of the 13 at-large bids.

North Carolina 18, Virginia Tech 12: The Hokies fought gamely, and trailed by only a goal at halftime, but the Tar Heels blew the game open late. Sydney Holman had an eight-point day (3g, 5a) to lead Carolina. The Tar Heels advance to play Notre Dame in Friday’s first semifinal. Virginia Tech’s season ends at 6-11.

Notre Dame 7, Virginia 6: The Irish, who came to town with the number 20 RPI ranking, almost certainly played their way off the bubble and into the NCAA tournament by beating the Cavaliers. Rachel Sexton had two second-half goals, including the game-winner with 5:16 to go, and Liz O’Sullivan recorded a career-high 12 saves. Virginia is a lock for the NCAA tournament, but may have played its way out of hosting first and second round games.

Syracuse 14, Boston College 13 (3OT): BC fought back from a 5-0 deficit, and had a chance to win in regulation, but Orange goalkeeper Courtney Richardson stopped Caroline Margolis with six seconds left. After two overtime periods failed to produce a goal, Kayla Treanor drove from behind the net to score at 1:36 of the third overtime. Despite the loss, BC is a lock for the NCAA tournament and has a chance to host first and second-round games.

A Final Note: Congratulations to the Duke women’s club lacrosse team, which ran through the regular season unbeaten and earned the top seed in the WCLA Division 2 national championship, to be played May 6-9 in Virginia Beach.