Lacrosse: No. 2 Northwestern to host No. 3 Duke

Colin Becht

When senior midfielder Colleen Magarity described Duke attacker Emma Hamm as “unbelievable,” she knew what she was talking about.

Magarity and Hamm have been regular opponents, and attended rival schools Germantown Academy and Baldwin School, respectively, in suburban Philadelphia.

“I played soccer, basketball and lacrosse against her my whole life,” Magarity said. “She’s unbelievable. She’s an awesome cutter.”

The two were also teammates on the USA U-19 World Cup team.

In a rematch of their high school days, Magarity and Hamm will face off once again as No. 2 Northwestern (9-0) takes on No. 3 Duke (9-1) on Saturday at noon at Lakeside Field.

Hamm accounts for half of a prolific duo of attackers along with Christie Kaestner. The two have combined for 92 of the Blue Devils’ 238 points this season.

“They’re both really crafty,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “When you get versatile players like that, that can do everything, it’s pretty tough to stop, and the good thing about them is they work really well together.”

Hamm is the primary scorer of the two, with 27 goals on the season. She’s also nearly unbeatable on draws, leading the team with 41 draws controlled.

“She’s an awesome center,” Magarity said. “She gets every draw.”

The Wildcats are solid off the draw as well. Led by freshman midfielder Alyssa Leonard, NU has beaten its opponents on the draw 167-78, better than the Blue Devils’ 156-120 advantage.

“This next game is going to be a really good test for us because Duke is very strong on the draw,” Amonte Hiller said. “They’re a very gritty team.”

Both sides are familiar with the back of the net, averaging over 15 goals per game each.

Kaestner plays the role of playmaker, though 23 goals on the season prove she’s capable of finishing as well. However, her 2.6 assists per game, fourth best in the NCAA, speak to her greatest asset.

“Kaestner is just a great feeder, but also very good in the inside and can dodge as well,” Amonte Hiller said.

Although NU has had no trouble creating its own offense, scoring 16 or more goals in all but two games this season, Duke has proven capable of clamping down on highly skilled attackers. The Blue Devils held then-No. 8 Virginia to just eight goals in an 11-8 victory over the Cavaliers on Saturday, the fourth straight game Duke held its opponent to single-digits.

“They play great team defense,” Amonte Hiller said. “They’re coming up with turnovers as a team. It’s not like one individual that’s making it. They have lots of different players that can step up and they’re really a great unit.”

Duke is coached by Kerstin Kimel, a former defender at Maryland, where she was named the 1993 NCAA National Defensive Player of the Year.

The Blue Devils rank second in the nation in caused turnovers, forcing 11.6 per game. That matches up nicely for Duke with one of NU’s weaknesses. The Cats have committed 128 turnovers this season, nearly half of them unforced errors.

“It’s just going to be being mentally focused and know that they’re going to be there for those stick checks,” junior attacker Shannon Smith said. “If we’re not focused, they’re going to eat us up on our turnovers.”

Unlike the Cats, who remain undefeated entering Saturday’s contest, Duke dropped a game, falling 18-11 to No. 1 Maryland on Feb. 26. However, Amonte Hiller said she wasn’t reading too much into that game, given its early date in the season – it was only the fourth game of the season for the Blue Devils.

“It was a while back, and I’m sure that Duke has grown tremendously as a team, as we have since our beginning of the season,” Amonte Hiller said. “I don’t think you can really judge.”

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