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No. 2 Syracuse women's lacrosse continues conference play against No. 15 Duke

girls standing with lacrosse sticks celebrating
Syracuse celebrates a goal in its win over Notre Dame on March 11, 2023.

No. 2 Syracuse women's lacrosse (8-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) continues its road trip against No. 15 Duke (4-4, 0-3 ACC) on Saturday afternoon. The Orange travel to Durham following a come-from-behind victory in Baltimore over No. 9 Loyola Maryland 9-7 on Wednesday night. With the win over the Greyhounds, SU secured its best start to a season (8-0) in program history.

Conference play has been a breeze for Syracuse so far. The Orange outscored their opponents by 31 goals in three games, winning by an average of just over 10 scores. Last weekend against Notre Dame, attacker Emma Ward recorded a career-high in points (8) and assists (7) in a 15-7 win over the Fighting Irish. The junior comes into Saturday's game tied with teammate Meaghan Tyrrell with 24 assists, second most in the country.

On the contrary, it's been anything but perfect in ACC play for the Blue Devils. Led by head coach Kerstin Kimel, who has been at the helm since the school's first season in 1996, Duke dropped its first three conference games for the first time since 2017. Following losses to Boston College and Notre Dame, the Blue Devils fell on the road at Clemson despite outdrawing the Tigers 16-9.

While Duke excels at forcing turnovers, its offense tends to be just as sloppy. Defensively, the Blue Devils snatch 11.25 turnovers per game, the best mark in the ACC. On the offensive end, the team commits an average of over 17 turnovers per game, second worst in the conference.

But it isn't all bad for Duke. Attacker Katie DeSimone racked up a season-high six goals in a loss to Yale on Tuesday night. The junior has tallied a team-high 27 goals over her first eight games, tied for 13th in the nation. DeSimone is on the 2023 Tewaaraton Watch List and earned an Inside Lacrosse All-American honorable mention last season.

The Blue Devils also have a top draw control specialist in Maddie Jenner. The graduate student, also on the Tewaaraton Watch List, ranks first in the country with 84 draw controls, averaging 10.5 per contest.

With SU's draw control specialist Katelyn Mashewske out for the season with an injury, the team is still looking for her successor. In Mashewske's first game out, the Orange were dominated 14-5 on the draw against the Greyhounds. With Jenner standing in the way on Saturday, Syracuse needs Sierra Cockerille and Natalie Smith to fill the void.

Opening draw control against Duke is set for Saturday at 12 p.m. in Durham, North Carolina.