Acton Delivers for Duke in Needed NCAA Tournament Win
Double OT victory sets up second round matchup with Navy
|Maddy Acton scored in double
overtime to lift Duke to a 10-9 win over Princeton in the first
round of the NCAA tournament on Friday night.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Duke's season was in the hands of a freshman, and she came through.
In double overtime, Maddy Acton cut in from the left side of the field, dodged her defender to the outside and beat Princeton goalie Caroline Franke on the far post to lift the Blue Devils to a 10-9 double overtime win in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday night at neutral-site Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium.
"I was originally supposed to go inside, but that wasn't what the girl gave, and I went outside. And I thought my coach was going to kill me, but it worked out," Acton said.
With attackers Makenzie Hommel and Brigid Smith sidelined by injuries, Duke's attack was young and relatively inexperienced going into the NCAA tournament. The Blue Devils trailed the Tigers 7-5 heading into halftime, but opened the second half with a three-goal run to take a lead. Princeton forced overtime on Erin Slifer's unassisted goal with 2:50 in regulation.
The two teams played a chess match in the first two overtime periods, holding the ball and barely attempting any shots. But in the first sudden death period, it took Acton all of 45 seconds to strike.
Overall, the game featured seven ties and two lead changes.
"I expected it to be close one way or another," Duke coach Kerstin Kimel said. "Tonight to be able to pull it out without Makenzie Hommel, I'm really, really proud of this team."
The victory gave unseeded Duke a spot in the second round versus No. 8 seed and host Navy, which defeated unseeded Monmouth 12-6 earlier in the night. The Midshipmen have earned four straight bids to the NCAA tournament, but the win over the Hawks was the first tournament win in program history.
"It's awesome. It's a historic day for us, and the team is so excited," Navy senior attacker Jasmine DePompeo said. "But having said that, looking ahead to Sunday we're really excited to play the winner of the Duke-Princeton game and keep this ride going."
DePompeo had one goal and five assists in the win, giving her 70 assists for the season and 166 in her career. DePompeo is now third in the NCAA record books behind only Hannah Nielsen (Northwestern, 224) and Jen Adams (Maryland, 178). She is also third on the all-time single season assist list, after Nielsen (83 in 2009) and current Denver sophomore attacker Jill Remenapp. Remenapp has 73 assists this season, including four in the Pioneers' 14-7 win over Jacksonville in another NCAA tournament game played Friday.
For the Midshipmen, the win over Monmouth was a watershed moment.
"What a game. Our first NCAA win and to actually do it here at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium is thrilling," said Navy coach, Cindy Timchal, who is making her record 25th NCAA appearance as a head coach. "This victory does make a statement. I'm real excited about the opportunity to keep playing."
Most of Timchal's tournament experience came during her tenure at Maryland, where she won eight NCAA titles, including the 1992 championship. Kimel was a player on that team. Now in her 18th season as Duke's first and only coach, Kimel has made the Blue Devils perennial tournament contenders.
"I learned from one of the best in Cindy and she's a big believer in [the idea] that you have to have experience to advance. It was really, really important for us to not have our season end tonight. We didn't really talk about that, but we all knew," Kimel said. "For us, the next step is going to be the most important one. In the tournament, it's, 'What's the next thing in front of us?'"
The next thing is a second-round game against Navy at noon on Sunday. The teams have not met since the 2010 regular season, when Duke defeated the Midshipmen 19-10. They have never met in the NCAA tournament.
Both teams enter the game on uncertain footing. Duke's attack is missing Hommel (44 goals, 10 assists this season) and Smith (20, 4), and star defender Taylor Virden is playing through the pain of a foot injury. Still, they cobbled together a victory with goals from seven different players, led by sophomore attacker Kerrin Maurer (one goal, three assists). Acton finished with two goals.
"I'm really proud of our kids. We've had a very up and down season and we're back up right now. Other people have to step up," Kimel said.
Navy struggled against Monmouth, especially against sophomore goalie Katie Donohoe (10 saves), who frustrated the Midshipmen's defense and crowded DePompeo on the crease, limiting her goal production. For junior attacker Aimee Gennaro, the turning point was the last goal before the half, when Loren Genari picked up a ground ball and slammed it past Donohoe with just seven seconds remaining to give Navy a 6-5 lead heading into halftime.
"It reminded us how we play every day," Gennaro said. "We go into practice and we play strong every day. So if we struggle for a couple minutes, it does not mean we don't know how to play. And that goal was a strong reminder that we know how to do this. We want more."
The new, expanded 26-team NCAA Division I women's tournament bracket helped a few programs make history on Friday. In addition to Navy picking up its first NCAA tournament win, Stony Brook, Stanford and Denver did the same. The America East champion Seawolves downed Towson 8-6 to set up a Sunday second-round matchup with top-seeded Maryland. Stanford edged Notre Dame 8-7 on a Hannah Farr free-position shot with four seconds left. The Cardinal will play second-seeded Northwestern in the second round at noon Sunday in Evanston, Ill. Denver's win over Jacksonville was also its first in NCAA tournament history, and puts two MPSF teams into the second round. The Pioneers play fifth-seeded Florida on Sunday. — Corey McLaughlin