In advance of the #DUKEvsUSC Division I women’s lacrosse OC Winter Invitational game on Saturday, Duke Head Coach Kerstin Kimel took time out to answer some questions from MaxLaxOC.
The Duke Blue Devils expect to reach the Final Four status in this season’s NCAA tournament. Last spring, they defeated USC 17-9 in the tourney quarterfinals. This neutral-site rematch at Orange Coast College is expected to reveal a lot about both teams in the season’s early going.
Coach Kimel discussed her team dynamic, Duke’s outreach to West Coast lacrosse and her athlete recruiting philosophy.
— Duke Athletics (@DukeATHLETICS) December 5, 2015
What does it mean for Duke to play a game in Southern California?
We are very excited to be able to showcase our program in one of the biggest and emerging areas for women’s lacrosse. It will be a great way for our SoCal Duke alums to connect with our team, and current players as well.
I think it’s very important that the SoCal lacrosse community know how grateful we are for the opportunity to play in front of them. I hope that they see our team compete and perform at a high level that they will aspire towards some day.
What difference do you expect to see in the 2016 USC team compared to last season?
I think anytime you have a core group that stays intact from one year to the next, it usually means a team will be more mature, savvy and confident than they were a year ago.
We will be working very hard to prepare for an excellent USC team, and we will be hydrating, given that it will be considerably warmer in SoCal than it is here now in North Carolina.
Who on your team do you plan to fill the offensive roles left by last year’s graduating class?
We have senior Kelci Smesko back on the field this year. She missed all of last season with a hip injury. She was a starter as a freshman and sophomore so we expect her to play a “quarterback” type of role for us. Likewise, we expect to see sophomores Kyra Harney and Maddie Crutchfield step up and play larger roles in our scoring. Finally, we expect to see freshmen Ellie Majure and Liv Jenner contribute early, as well.
— Chronicle Sports (@chroniclesports) February 14, 2016
Which of your players have developed beyond expectations within the last season and preseason?
Claire Scarrone. She was the last prospect we took in her class (2012) with the least amount of scholarship money. She will graduate as a two-time captain and a three-year starter and hopefully some accolades to boot. She is one of the hardest working, toughest and most competitive players I have coached. I am very proud of how she has developed here at Duke!
— Duke Women's Lax (@DukeWLAX) February 4, 2016
How does a West Coast recruit approach Duke Women’s Lacrosse?
Just like everyone else! We usually hear from prospects via email to introduce themselves and keep us posted on their academic and athletic progress. If there is solid mutual interest, we will do our best to see them play at a tournament and hopefully have the chance to work with them in a camp setting as well.
From the earliest days of our program, we have ALWAYS recruited from the West Coast. Our first players from California, Ashley Wick and Cheryl Lynn Horton from the Thacher School, played with us in the late 90s and early 2000s (the early years of our program). Both were very good and important players in our program during that time. Likewise, we graduated Katie Trees from Torrey Pines HS last year and have a few more coming down the pipeline. For us, it has always been important to have our roster reflect the Duke student body, which includes students from all over the country. I think this is something we have always made a priority and will continue to do so.
Coaches’ New Overture: Limit Early Recruiting https://t.co/tQqgAf2Mkg
— Michelle Mendoza (@Michelledm18) December 8, 2015
What kind of key methods are crucial to recruiting well and ethically?
I think it’s critical to know what kind of student-athlete is likely to be most successful at your respective university. I am sure Lindsey [Munday] spent a lot of time talking with her fellow USC coaches, and maybe even getting to know some of their athletes, so that she could sort through what kind of student and athlete would not only be attracted to USC but be successful, as well. At Duke, we have a very good handle on this, and our players and their peers reinforce our feelings about it every day. Likewise, we do A LOT of homework on players and their families to ensure that we are getting kids who really understand our standards both academically and athletically. Finally, honesty is paramount. We are very forward about our process, our timing, and our thoroughness — and we don’t apologize for it.
I know that our players absolutely support the IWLCA’s proposed NCAA legislation to slow down the recruiting process. I think they can easily look back at themselves and wonder if they could really wrap their heads around what it takes to be a student-athlete at a place like Duke when they were in 8th, 9th and 10th grade.
What kind of team do you have … on a personal level?
We have outstanding kids of great character on the whole. I am very proud of who they are and how they represent Duke, our athletic department and our program on a daily basis.
Our team lives out our Core Values on a daily basis. They include:
Duke Lax Love
How do you feel about your Lacrosse Magazine Best Coach nomination?
I feel that is a staff award — especially last season. My assistants, Amanda Barnes and Lauren Morton deserve most of the credit for our team’s success in 2015.
#DUKEvsUSC 2015 Highlights
Purchase your tickets for the #DUKEvsUSC inaugural OC Winter Invitational game now! The Trojans and Blue Devils face off at OCC in just four days. Be there Saturday, 7 p.m! MaxLaxOC.com will live stream the event. @Maxlaxocgirls will also be there!
Michelle Mendoza is a graduate of El Toro High School and Chapman University, where she played NCAA D3 lacrosse. Follow her on Twitter @michelledm18.