For three years, William and Mary has come tantalizingly close to breaking into the elite ranks of women’s collegiate lacrosse. The Tribe fell in back-to-back CAA tournament finals in 2008 and 2009 and suffered a barrage of injuries that beset an otherwise promising 2010 campaign.
With this in mind, the Tribe’s much-heralded senior core, including CAA Preseason Player of the Year Grace Golden and 2010 CAA Defender of the Year Sarah Jonson, embarked on its final chance at glory in the College’s season opener against No. 4 Duke in Durham, N.C. Saturday.
Despite a furious second half rally, the Tribe (0-1) could not close the void left by a shaky first half, and the squad ultimately fell 14-11.
“I thought our team was very well prepared,” Head Coach Christine Halfpenny said. “Overall, from top to bottom, I walk away from this experience as being pleased with the effort our team gave us. I think it is an outstanding start to the season … We had some very minor execution errors that hurt us, but I am really excited about what we have to work with this season.”
Senior midfielder Maggie Anderson paced the Tribe with a career-high six goals, while senior midfielder Grace Golden added three goals and four ground balls and caused three turnovers.
Senior midfielder Ashley Holofcener — who finished the 2010 season ranked 13th nationally in assists and holds the school record for career assists — helped the Tribe spread the ball around with seven assists.
The match started out well for the College. Golden opened the scoring after just 1 minute, 31 seconds of play, giving the Tribe an early 1-0 advantage. The Blue Devils answered quickly, however, as Duke’s Kat Thomas sped up the field and scored an unassisted goal just 11 seconds later to even the match.
After Anderson added another Tribe goal off of a Holofcener assist with 25:58 remaining in the first half, Duke reestablished itself and went on a 9-1 scoring run to end the half with a decisive 10-3 advantage over the College.
“The first half was unfortunate,” Halfpenny said. “We didn’t really need 10 more minutes in the first half, we needed 10 minutes back. We allowed four goals in a minute-and-a-half stretch, and that is a really difficult thing to come back from. We weren’t able to connect on some of our fast breaks, and that ended up being the difference.”
During that span, the Blue Devils relied on balanced scoring; Thomas, Virginia Crotty, Christie Kaestner, Sarah Bullard and Maddie Salamone all managed to score at least one goal against senior goalkeeper Emily Geary.
Although Bullard added yet another Duke goal just 42 seconds into the second half, the College regained its composure and went on a run of its own. Senior Molly Wannen provided the Tribe with its first points in nearly 17 minutes of play with an unassisted score. From there, Anderson scored on two consecutive Holofcener feeds to cut the Duke lead to four.
Anderson’s performance, especially in the second half, resulted in her being named the CAA Player of the Week Monday, which pleased her coach.
“She just had a monster day,” Halfpenny said. “She just came out yesterday and was in the right place at the right time. Her execution on her shooting was clearly flawless, as she went 6 for 6 … She just really exploited [Duke’s] goalkeeper’s weaknesses.”
Despite Anderson’s best efforts, Thomas and Bullard added two more goals, pushing the Blue Devil advantage to 13-6 with 20 minutes to go, The margin proved too steep of a deficit for the College to overcome.
The Tribe went on a 5-1 run to close the contest, but it was not enough.
“We are going to take this game and we are going to learn from it,” Halfpenny said. “We are hoping to continue to hone in on our game plan and continue to get better.”