A Devilish time on tap in NCAAs
No. 5 Duke comes to town with Final Four berth on the line
May 15, 2009, 4:39 pm · Updated May 15, 2009, 12:00 am·
The women's lacrosse team pulled out a 9-8 overtime victory the previous time it faced Duke, in last year's NCAA Tournament Final Four.
Now, with last season in the back of their minds, the two teams will square off once again, though this time it's one round earlier.
No. 5 Duke (15-5) is coming off an overtime victory of its own, a 15-13 defeat of Virginia last Sunday. When the Blue Devils travel to Philadelphia tomorrow for the 1 p.m. matchup, they will be looking to forget last year and start anew.
"They have a lot of new players that we are going to have to get ourselves acquainted with," Duke coach Kerstin Kimel said of Penn. "We are trying to look more at this year's team."
The No. 4 Quakers (14-2, 7-0 Ivy), however, find last season's win to be valuable as they prepare for tomorrow's showdown. According to junior midfield Emma Spiro, Penn's familiarity with the Blue Devils' high-powered attack will be beneficial.
"They typically get the best recruiting classes in the country," Penn coach Karin Brower said. "They don't have a weak link."
And with nine of last season's 12 starters returning to the field, that's definitely true this year.
The Blue Devils have a diverse offensive corps, which according to Brower, consists of up to nine players that are capable of putting the ball in the net. However, one of those scorers, senior midfield Carolyn Davis, suffered a knee injury against UVA and will not line up this weekend. Duke's leading scorer with 59 goals and a Tewaaraton Trophy finalist, Davis is a huge asset to the team's attack. Last year she torched the Quakers for five goals.
"Obviously we would love to have her on the field but our offense is going to be just fine without her," Kimel said. "Other kids around her are completely capable and willing to step up in her absence."
Senior midfield Caroline Cryer is one of those players, having netted 44 goals this season. The Quakers did not face Cryer in the tournament last year due to a foot injury, but the Colorado native will be taking the field this time around.
In addition, Duke's senior goalie Kim Imbesi was just named the Division I defensive Player of the Week after a game-changing save with 49 seconds left in regulation against UVA. The Quakers' attack, meanwhile, struggled to score against Fairfield, netting only 10 of 29 shots and will have to be aware of Imbesi in goal.
"It's really just about placing the ball and seeing the net, taking that extra second," Spiro said. "The attacker always has the advantage."
In last year's matchup, the Quakers struggled to gain possession. Duke is currently ranked eighth in the nation in draw controls, averaging 14.7 a game, while Penn is ranked 71st with only 10.56.
Even with last season's win under their belt, the Quakers know that beating a team of Duke's caliber will be difficult.
"We are excited for the challenge," Spiro said. "The team who wins it can actually say that they played the best in the country."