The Daily Northwestern

Lacrosse: Led by Kaleigh Craig, Northwestern pulls out dogfight against Duke in Durham

Sophomore midfielder Kaleigh Craig carries the ball into Northwestern’s offensive third. Craig, the only non-senior to score more than 1 goal, led the Wildcats with 4 on six shots against the Blue Devils.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Sophomore midfielder Kaleigh Craig carries the ball into Northwestern’s offensive third. Craig, the only non-senior to score more than 1 goal, led the Wildcats with 4 on six shots against the Blue Devils.

Ava Wallace, Sports Editor

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With under 15 minutes left, Kara Mupo sent spectators at Duke’s Koskinen Stadium a message.

The junior had fallen to her knees while driving to the cage, but managed to whip off a quick assist to senior attack Alyssa Leonard, who netted a goal to cut the Blue Devil’s lead to one.

The Wildcats were going to fight until they came out on top.

No. 4 Northwestern (2-0) did just that, pulling out its second close road win in two weeks, this time against No. 5 Duke (3-1) in Durham, N.C., 12-11. Saturday’s win was the Cats’ 11th straight over the Blue Devils.

The two teams stayed neck and neck almost the entire game. The gap never exceeded two goals throughout the entire contest. The teams were either tied or within a goal.

Both squads came off the opening draw chomping at the bit as well. The Blue Devils’ Brigid Smith scored in the first 18 seconds; it took sophomore midfielder Kaleigh Craig less than four minutes to respond with a goal of her own.

It was the Cats’ sophomores and seniors who fronted the team’s attack Saturday, with Craig leading NU with 4 goals on six shots. Senior midfielder Kat DeRonda was right behind Craig on the stat sheet with 3 goals and Leonard pitched in with 2.

Surely the Cats’ experienced offense helped against Duke’s sophomore goalie Kelsey Duryea, who ended last season 10th in the country in saves per game.

Possession play in the midfield was also evenly matched, with the Cats nabbing just one more ground ball and committing one more turnover than the Blue Devils.

But through the fray, Leonard continued to prove her indispensability as both team leader and offensive kick-starter in Durham. The senior draw control specialist continued to inch higher in the record books Saturday with 13 draws – just two shy of her NCAA record-tying career best, tallied against USC last season.

Junior goalkeeper Bridget Bianco had a solid four-save performance that was made to look perhaps less impressive in the wake of her career-high 14 saves against Virginia on Feb. 9. Nonetheless, the junior was efficient on defense, successfully making 12 of her 17 clears.

Bianco will need to keep her save percentage high and the team will have to decrease its turnovers — it had 16 against Duke  and 20 against Virginia — in the coming weeks. The Cats have a bit of a breather against Marquette at home Tuesday, but then face always-tricky Notre Dame and the beginning of the conference season.

Email: AvaWallace2015@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @AvaRWallace

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