NASHVILLE - The 19th-ranked Vanderbilt women's lacrosse team opened the 2012 season with an impressive defensive performance in knocking off No. 5 Duke, 7-5, Sunday at the VU Lacrosse Complex. Senior goalkeeper Natalie Wills made seven saves behind a strong Vanderbilt defense that shut down a Blue Devil attack which had averaged 22 goals in its first two games.
The Commodore attack played aggressively and turned eight-meter opportunities into goals, as six of Vanderbilt's seven tallies came on free position shots. Six different Commodores scored goals, led by a pair from senior Kelly Connors.
Vanderbilt's defense, which returned all 64 games started from last season, put together a magnificent performance to hold Duke to five goals--the lowest offensive output for a VU opponent since beating Canisius last February.
Playing against the fifth-ranked team in the country, the Commodores would never trail. Senior All-American Ally Carey scored on a free position shot just 1:18 into the game to give Vanderbilt the lead. She would win the ensuing draw and a feed a wide-open Kelly Connors for another score just 10 seconds later--Vanderbilt's only goal that didn't come after a Blue Devil foul.
Duke twice tied the game up, including at the outset of the second half, but free position goals from senior Kacie Connors, junior Carly Linthicum and senior Kendall Pittinger over an eight-minute span gave VU a 6-3 advantage with 18 minutes to play.
The Commodores were called for five yellow cards on the day, but only allowed one Duke goal during the newly instituted "man-advantage" situations that force teams to play minus-1 in both attacking zones for two minutes after a card. Following that DU tally, VU sophomore Abby Wheeler answered with the Commodores' final goal of the day at the 6:05 mark of the second half. The Blue Devils would scramble to get one more goal but could not get closer than 7-5.
Vanderbilt will have two weeks to prepare for its second game of the season. Head Coach Cathy Swezey's Commodores will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C., on Sunday, Feb. 26, to face another Atlantic Coast Conference ranked in the nation's top five in North Carolina.