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No. 1 Duke opens 2006 season at Longwood

Posted Monday, February 13, 2006

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Durham, NC - No. 1 Duke will begin the 2006 season on Tuesday when they travel to Farmville, Va. for a contest against Longwood at 4 p.m.

Duke enters the 2006 season with high expectations. They received the No. 1 ranking in the preseason Inside Lacrosse Top-20 Rankings and are ranked No. 2 in the Lacrosse Magazine preseason rankings. Four individuals have also earned national recognition in the preseason by Inside Lacrosse. Senoir Katie Chrest and Sophomore Rachel Sanford have been named to the preseason All-America first team. Senior Megan Huether made the second team while Junior Kristen Waagbo was named to the third team. They are coming off a school-record 17 wins in 2005, including the first ACC Tournament Championship and the second trip to the NCAA Final Four in school history. The trip to the NCAA tournament was the eighth straight appearance for the Blue Devils. Head Coach Kerstin Kimel was named ACC Coach of the Year after leading Duke to victories over eight ranked teams en route to a final record of 17-4.

“The experience of winning the ACC Tournament and getting back to the Final Four was just tremendous for our team,” said Kimel. “To be in the Friday-Sunday tournament format and win a tough game against Virginia in a professional stadium atmosphere was a great stepping stone for us. I expect the entire experience to serve us well this season.”

With 24 letterwinners returning and a great recruiting class, the Blue Devils will have all the right ingredients for a ninth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament and a chance at both the ACC and National Championships.

Attack

The Blue Devils return their top seven scorers from 2005 this season. Chrest, the reigning Tewaaraton Trophy winner as National Player of the Year in her junior season, will look to lead Duke back to the Final Four as she anchors the Duke offensive system. She was also named the IWLCA and Inside Lacrosse Attacker of the Year and first team IWLCA/US Lacrosse All-America. She was ACC Player of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP. She broke five school records, including career shots (380), season goals (70), season points (96), season shots (162) and goals in a game with seven. She was also the youngest member of the U.S. Women’s World Cup training team.

“Katie is a great all-around player,” said Kimel. “While best known for her scoring prowess, she can play defense, create turnovers and snag draw controls as well as anyone. She continues to work tirelessly to improve and diversify her game. Likewise, she is a humble and selfless player. She wants to see our team be successful and wants to do whatever she can to contribute to that success.”

Joining Chrest on offense is a strong and talented group. Caroline Cryer scored 21 goals in her freshman campaign last year to go along with 11 assists. Leigh Jester, a junior, finished third on the team with 51 points (38 goals, 13 assists). She was selected to the ACC and NCAA All-Tournament team. Waagbo, a junior, also had a strong finish last season and was named to the NCAA All-Tournament team. She finished second on the team with 68 points, 47 goals and 21 assists. She had seven games with at least five points. Megan Del Monte, a freshman from Lutherville, Md., is also expected to contribute. She is a two-time US Lacrosse All-America and was named to the Tewaaraton Team.

“Caroline continues to work hard and grow into a special player,” said Kimel. “Her stick work and ability to move without the ball is outstanding. She has great game sense and work ethic. Megan has tremendous game sense and is a crafty player. She is dangerous around the crease and is an all-around smart and savvy player. Leigh really came on strong as the season progressed last year. She is a tremendous dodger and does a great job of facilitating our offense. Kristen has worked really hard to develop her game over the last year. She is challenging the cage with power, using her size to see the field and distribute the ball well.”

Midfield

Duke’s midfield will be led by Jessica Adam, Michelle Menser and Sanford. Adam, a sophomore, played in all 21 games last season for the Blue Devils with 17 goals and eight assists. Menser, a junior, has moved from the offensive midfield to the defensive midfield. She also started every game with 15 goals and seven assists. Sanford, a redshirt sophomore, was one of the top offensive threats on the team in 2005 as she ranked third on the team with 41 goals to go along with nine assists. She was named to the IWLCA/US Lacrosse All-America second team and was a first team All-ACC selection. She started every game and led the team with 56 ground balls, 60 draw controls and 39 caused turnovers.

“Jess is one of the smartest offensive players on the team. She understands space and how to create for her teammates. She is a major threat off the ball as she reads defenses and slips into open spaces as well as anyone on the team,” said Kimel. “Rachel is such a powerful offensive threat. She uses her speed, strength and explosiveness in our offense to use lanes and create scoring opportunities. Michelle had a tremendous fall season after changing to defensive midfield. Her strengths are better suited for defense and I think the experience she has gained as an attacker in the last two seasons will make her a more effective midfield threat.”

Also expected to contribute in the midfield are three freshmen, Carolyn Davis, Jessica McBride and Kim Pastrana. Davis is a two-time first team All-America selection out of New York and holds the state record for career assists with 274 and assists in a season with 82. McBride was an All-America pick as a senior and two-time All-State choice. Pastrana redshirted her freshman season last year to recover from compartment syndrome.

“Carolyn is the fastest player on our team and will be a major factor in our transition game,” said Kimel. “She is a great scorer and can play defense. Both Kimi and Jess performed very well this fall. They are similar players in that they are versatile and capable of playing at both ends of the field. I expect that both of them will be contributors as midfield defenders this spring.”

Defense

Graduation hit Duke’s defense the hardest last season with four key players finishing up their career in Durham. The Blue Devils will try to replace Lane Fogarty, Caline McHenry, Katie Laschinger and Stefanie Sparks who helped lead the eighth best scoring defense, giving up only 7.81 goals per game. The four seniors combined for 81 starts. Duke will look towards senior captain Laura Anderson and junior Meghan Ferguson to play key defensive roles as well as Menser from the defensive midfield standpoint. Anderson and Ferguson were both starters last year while Menser will move over from a more offensive role (15 goals, 7 assists) to help strengthen the defense.

“Laura was a great defensive presence for us last season. Her anticipation, experience, positioning and toughness will be critical to the success of our unit this season,” said Kimel. “We expect Meg to be one of our top shut-down defenders. She is strong, quick and now has two years as a starter under her belt playing against some of the nation’s best offensive players.”

Ashley Coll, Aiyana Newton, Danielle Freedman and Christina Germinario are also expected to see playing time this year. Coll and Freedman are seniors and provide the most experience with Coll playing in 26 career games and Freedman 14 contests. Newton, a sophomore, came off the bench in 17 games last season while Germinario was a second team All-State selection in New Jersey.

“After three years in a more limited role, Coll is now positioned to be in the fight for a starting spot,” said Kimel. “Three years of experience combined with great game sense and hard work have put her in good position. Danielle was a faceguard defender who we used in critical games to relieve starters in that role. Her team defensive skills have improved and she had a great showing in the fall. Depending on how Yani recovers from off-season surgery, she could be someone who has a breakout year for us. She is arguably our most overall athletic defender. Christina had an outstanding fall. She has tremendous game sense and is an aggressive defender. These are no doubt qualities that have transferred from all of her years of playing competitive basketball. Her transition to the pace of the college game has been seamless and I expect her to add to our depth defensively.”

Goalie

Although the defense does not have as much experience as last year, they are still backed by arguably the best goalie in the country as the 2005 IWLCA National Goalie of the Year, Megan Huether, returns for her senior season between the pipes. Huether, a 2005 All-America and two-time All-ACC performer, holds the school record for career minutes (3,360:42) as well as single season records of saves (196) and minutes (1,212:23). She is on pace to break Duke’s record of career saves (568). Last season she held her opponents to under 10 goals in 16 of the 21 contests.

“Meg is a great goalie because she not only possesses great skills and experience, but she works tirelessly to improve and is never satisfied,” said Kimel. “Our defensive unit and team in general has so much confidence in Meg and I think that anytime you are in that position as a team, you feel comfortable taking risks on the field because you know that Meg can make big plays both in terms of stopping the ball but also in jumpstarting our offense as well.”

Backing up Huether is sophomore Regan Bosch and freshman Kim Imbesi. Bosch played in seven games last season stopping seven of 17 shots. She played a total of 47:37 minutes in the backup role. Imbesi was a first team high school All-America after leading Bridgewater-Raritan to the National Tournament Championship. She set a school record with 251 saves as a senior.

“Regan had a really strong fall and made great strides with her positioning and game sense,” said Kimel. “Kim is a great athlete with quick hands and great instincts. Our coaching staff is working hard to mold her natural talents into technically sound positioning so that she can use her physical assets to her greatest advantage.”

Schedule

Duke will face one of the toughest schedules in women’s lacrosse this season. Out of the other nine teams in the Lacrosse Magazine’s 2006 preseason rankings, seven are on tap for the Blue Devils. The season begins with two road games in Virginia for Duke. They will travel to Farmville for a match against Longwood on Feb. 14 and then to Richmond to face the Spiders on Feb. 19. The home opener will also kick off ACC play as they host No. 9 Maryland on Feb. 25. After a home game against Duquesne, The Blue Devils begin a tough stretch that includes road contests at No. 7 North Carolina and No. 5 Princeton followed by a home game against No. 10 Georgetown. The game at Princeton on Mar. 12 will be televised nationally by ESPNU at 11 a.m.

“Obviously it is outstanding exposure for the sport of women’s lacrosse and Duke,” said Kimel. “I have always felt that our sport is underexposed and therefore underappreciated. Our team looks forward to showcasing the game and our program on television against Princeton and in the ACC Tournament.”

Duke has a four-game stretch at home against top-20 competition starting on Mar. 26 against No. 16 Vanderbilt. They will then have a rematch against the team that defeated them in the Final Four last season when they host No. 4 Virginia at 1 p.m. on Apr. 1. That game will be followed by a showdown with the defending national champions, No. 1 Northwestern, on Apr. 7 and No. 17 Notre Dame two days later.

“We have always felt that to be the best, you have to play the best and we are proud that we have continuously played one of the nation’s toughest schedules,” said Kimel. “Our team is accustomed to playing big games with something on the line. Without a doubt, our schedule is excellent preparation for the rigors of both the ACC and NCAA Tournaments.”

The Blue Devils will hit the road to face Boston College, the newest member of the ACC, on Apr. 15 and then William & Mary on Apr. 21. They play their final regular season home game on Apr. 23 against St. Joseph’s. The ACC Tournament will be held in Baltimore, Md. Apr. 27-30. Following the tournament, Duke will play their final regular season game when they head to Hanover, N.H. to square off against No. 6 Dartmouth on May 7. The NCAA Tournament will begin May 13 with the Final Four to take place in Boston, Mass. on May 26 and 28.

 
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