2023 NCAA Lacrosse Rankings: No. 11 Duke (Women)

PHOTO BY PEYTON WILLIAMS

Anna Callahan scored a career-high 22 goals last season.


The 2023 college lacrosse season is almost here. As is our annual tradition, we’re featuring every team ranked in the Nike/USA Lacrosse Preseason Top 20.

Check back to USALaxMagazine.com each weekday this month for new previews, scouting reports and rival analysis.

NO. 11 DUKE

2022 Record: 16-4 (6-2 ACC)
Final Ranking (2022): No. 12
Coach: Kerstin Kimel

TOP RETURNERS

Maddie Jenner, A/DS, Grad.

Jenner enters 2023 just 42 draw controls away from the all-time NCAA record — and she’ll probably get there by early March. Unquestionably the top draw-taker in college right now, Jenner is the key to Duke offense.

Olivia Carner, M, Sr.

A full-time starter for the first time in 2022, Carner contributed across the board with 30 goals, 19 assists, 20 ground balls, 33 caused turnovers and 23 draw controls. With Catriona Barry gone to graduation, Carner could take on more of a role on offense.

Cubby Biscardi, D, Sr.

A rock on defense, Biscardi has started every game the past two seasons and contributed 40 ground balls, 65 caused turnovers and 35 draw controls in those 39 games.

KEY ADDITIONS

Madison Beale, D, Fr.

A graduate of St. Paul’s (Md.), Beale should figure into the defensive mix early on in her Duke career. The Baltimore Sun player of the year as a senior, Beale is a true athlete who also lettered in basketball and soccer.

Sydney Smith, D, Fr.

Like Beale, Smith should find a role on defense pretty early. A McDonogh (Md.) graduate, Smith has a never-ending motor — evidencing by her high school experience in cross country and track and field.

KEY DEPARTURES

Graduations: Catriona Barry, A; Abby Landry, M







STORYLINES TO WATCH

What will the on-field configuration look like?

Kerstin Kimel uses the fall as an opportunity to get everyone on the roster plenty of playing time. Sure, Duke practices some schemes that could be used in the spring, but fall is Kimel’s opportunity to build depth — which often proves to be an advantage once April and may roll around.

With that being the case, Kimel might not have an answer for the on-field configuration until the preseason (or, more likely, after the season’s first few games). Will Duke utilize five attackers, two midfielders and five defenders, or will a 4-3-4 better suit the Blue Devils? That’s on the short list of things to figure out before Duke gets too deep into its season.

How important is scheduling?

As Duke’s ranking improved over the course of last season, the haters made their opinions known. Duke’s early season schedule was hardly challenging, to be fair. The Blue Devils outscored their first six opponents — Gardner-Webb, Elon, William & Mary, High Point, Wofford and East Carolina — by a count of 131-39.

The lack of a stiff challenge didn’t mean much later in the season, as Duke still finished 16-4 and even beat national runner up Boston College in the penultimate game of the regular season.

“The year after COVID, anybody criticizing people about scheduling, c’mon,” Kimel said.

Kimel said there are scheduling restrictions that people on the outside simply don’t see. And now that the ACC is a 10-team league with the additions of Pitt and Clemson the past two years, scheduling is even more of a challenge.

“The addition of Clemson and Pitt to our league, it’s definitely made us have to rethink how we’re scheduling,” she said. “We’ve chosen to play way more local teams because our travel is more extensive. We’ve said that our non-conference schedule will be drivable because, financially, it makes sense.”

What’s next to get over the hump?

Duke missed the NCAA tournament for three straight seasons but has revived itself with back-to-back successes in 2021 and 2022. Elevating to that next level is next up on Kimel’s list.

Offense certainly won’t be the problem. Even with the graduation of Catriona Barry, Duke isn’t short on options. Defensively, Duke figures to be improved with two high profile freshmen entering the mix in Madison Beale and Sydney Smith.

They could surely benefit from a return to form by Sophia LeRose, the goalie who saved 44.7 percent of shots in 2021 before taking a small step back to 40.7 percent last spring. Doing things consistently, both in the goal and out of it, are the focus.

“For our group, we have to learn how to handle success. We have to win a big game and then turn around and win another,” Kimel said. “We have the experience. We have the talent. Now it’s just doing it consistently.”

ENEMY LINES
WHAT RIVALS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE DUKES

“They should have the ball a lot with Jenner on the draw. It’s a great group of players returning. They had some definite highs and lows last year; they were a little inconsistent. But they have the talent to go far.”

“Well, they have Jenner back, so that’s an automatic 60-40 on the draw. They are well-coached. They have a roster of talent. I think they will be competitive. It’s a program with a lot of pride in who they are.”

BEYOND THE BASICS
POWERED BY LACROSSE REFERENCE

602

Last year, the Blue Devils finished with the second-ranked draw control unit (only Northwestern was better). And with Maddie Jenner coming back to Durham this spring, expect that to continue. Since 2016, nobody has won more draws than Jenner, and it’s not particularly close. With 602 wins and a season left to go, this is going to be one of those situations where whoever ends up in second all-time is going to be closer to 20th than to Jenner in first.

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