By Andrew Holman | The Duquesne Duke
Head coach Mike Scerbo scheduled a rigorous non-conference slate for the Duquesne women’s lacrosse team for one reason – preparation for Atlantic 10 play.
Duquesne did battle with some of the top teams in the country earlier this year, including No. 9 Penn State and No. 12 Ohio State, escaping with a 2-5 non-conference record. Although a .286 win percentage in the first seven games isn’t something to brag about, these seven games made Duquesne visibly better, which they proved in the conference opener against St. Bonaventure last Friday.
The Dukes put on quite a performance for the fans in attendance at Arthur J. Rooney Field as they routed the Bonnies by a staggering 25-8 score, picking up their third win on the season and first in conference play.
The 25 goals scored were the most all-time in a single game by the Dukes, surpassing their previous high of 22. The team put on a scoring clinic, but the most encouraging thing for Scerbo has to be the balance that his offense displayed as seen. In fact, 12 different players found the back of the net that afternoon.
Duquesne may not be able to count on having over 10 different players score every game, but what they can count on is a balanced team effort. If there are this many players with scoring potential, it becomes difficult for other teams to zone in on the big guns like Jill Vacanti and Kaelin Shaw. Additionally, if one of their top players is struggling, the Dukes should have plenty of other options to pick up the slack.
Unfortunately, Duquesne was unable to keep up the diverse level of scoring, though, after falling to No. 14 UMass on Sunday 15-9. However they are making strides, especially in their attack.
A season ago, Duquesne suffered a 10-2 defeat to the Minutemen while converting on only 12.5 percent of their shots. In 2016, Duquesne not only scored seven more goals than they did last year, but also capitalized on a remarkable 53 percent of their shots.
Vacanti and Shaw have the Duquesne attack looking strong, which puts the focus on the team’s young defensive corps. Last year, the Dukes surrendered 35 shots to UMass and 39 this time around. That’s a high volume of shots to keep out no matter who is protecting the cage.
Despite the loss, Duquesne getting much better thanks to a well-oiled attack. The Red & Blue will not square off against the Minutemen again this season except potentially in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, so they’ll have a lot of time to prep for a potential postseason showdown against one of the toughest teams in the conference.
For the rest of the regular season, however, the Dukes will be focused on putting themselves in the best possible position going into the conference tournament. To do that they must continue with their balanced attack and sure up their defense. If they can make those two things happen, the Dukes can stand tall come May.