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Pitt Women's Lacrosse

Pitt Lacrosse Comes up Just Short at No. 7 Duke in First ACC Road Game



Pitt's Kate Elam muscles her way past a Duke defender on March 10, 2022 in Durham, NC. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

DURHAM, N.C. — The first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference road contest for Pitt’s infant-aged women’s lacrosse program went about as well as one could reasonably hope for.

Pitt was competitive throughout the course of the game, led the host — and nationally ranked — Duke Blue Devils for a while in the second quarter and never quit. The Panthers, playing just their seventh game ever, fought hard and played well for much of the game.

But Duke is just a bit more seasoned, has just a bit more cohesion amongst its players, and is just a bit more talented. All that combined was enough to lift No. 7 Duke to a tight 15-14 victory over the Panthers on a cold and gloomy night at Koskinen Stadium.

“I’m really proud of the girls. We keep talking about believing in ourselves and believing in how talented this team is. I think today, they truly believed that,” Pitt coach Emily Boissonneault said. “For me, it’s super emotional, because I keep telling them that. For them to play 60 minutes with a top 10 program — in our first year — is really incredible.”

It was the fourth straight loss for Pitt (3-4), which fell to 0-3 in ACC play in its inaugural season. On paper, Pitt looks like a team struggling to find its footing. But Boissonneault sees the opposite.

“Every game, we’ve been better. To see that this is where we are at this point, and to know that have almost two months of lacrosse to play still, I just can’t imagine what type of team we’ll be,” the first-year head coach said.

Leading the way for the Panthers was sophomore attack Kate Elam, who notched four goals. Madisyn Kittell had two assists and a goal, and Kierin Ratliff-Kailbourne added two goals and an assist.

Duke (7-1, 1-1 ACC) was powered by Olivia Carner’s three goals and two assists.

Pitt midfielder Payton Reed battles for possession with a Duke player on March 10, 2022 in Durham, NC. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

The Blue Devils opened the game with a 3-0 scoring run, shutting Pitt out in the first quarter. But the Panthers re-grouped in the second period and went on a 5-1 run of their own to take the lead about four-and-a-half minutes out from halftime. The spark of offense for Pitt began with Emily Coughlin netting a free position goal less than three minutes into the quarter. She tossed her stick with a force after netting her third score of the season, and was mobbed by her teammates.

The scoring continued for Pitt with Dylana Williams, Elam and Chloe Jones each scoring over the next five minutes. Elam then tallied her second score at the 4:39 mark, giving Pitt a 5-4 lead over Duke. Each of the Panthers first four goals were unassisted.

Midfielder Payton Reed — a former standout member of Pitt’s club lacrosse team — saw an offense that looked as good as it has all season.

“I think the offense really played together and had a lot of heart,” Reed said. “The biggest thing was, we didn’t get too down when (Duke) scored; we were focused on the next thing and what we can do.”

Pitt held its lead at halftime, but its advantage didn’t last long. Less than five minutes into the third period, Duke rattled off four straight goals — two of them scored by Carner — as the Blue Devils retook the lead.

Again, the Panthers responded. They never rolled over for Duke, and time and time again proved to be a team capable of competing in the ACC. In a span of less than three minutes, Pitt found the back of the cage three times, with Elam scoring twice and Jones adding another score, tying the game up again. It was Elam’s third game this season with multiple goals.

“Kate just sees the back of the net. She just knows how to get there. She has one of the best shooting percentages on the team,” Boissonneault said. “She has a great view for the cage and she shoots hard, and she doesn’t need a lot of space to do it.”

After falling behind by three goals in the fourth quarter, Pitt stormed back once more, behind Kittell’s pair of assists to Ratliff-Kailbourne, and a goal of Kittell’s own that forced Duke to make a goalie change at the 8:07 mark. Duke ultimately pulled away in the end though, scoring its final goal with 1:51 remaining. Duke ran out the clock on its final possession — resulting in a shot clock violation — and Pitt was unable to create a legitimate scoring opportunity in less than eight seconds.

Pitt goalie Paulina DiFatta finished the day in the cage saving nine of the 24 shots she faced. She stopped Duke’s first shot on-goal of the day, halting an attempt by Eva Greco less than two minutes into the game, but couldn’t stifle Duke’s second shot-on-target — a hard and high shot from Maddie Jenner — at the 11:10 mark in the first period to open the scoring.

Also for Pitt, graduate transfer Paige Petty’s diving goal on a free position shot late in the fourth quarter extended her streak of consecutive games with at least one point to 70, and her run of straight games with at least one goal to 37.

Carlie Leach and Karina Latsko also scored goals for Pitt against the Blue Devils. Reed scooped up three ground balls and forced a pair of turnovers.

Pitt women’s lacrosse coach Emily Boissonneault watches her team battle Duke on March 10, 2022 in Durham, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / Pittsburgh Sports Now)

“I think we all feel a little disappointed (about the loss to Duke)… but I think we’re also really proud of ourselves in how we played and excited for the future,” Reed said. “We’re getting used to playing with each other. With every opponent, we learn something new about ourselves.”

The Panthers will aim to get back on track Sunday, when they return home to Pittsburgh’s Highmark Stadium to face a Binghamton team that is .500 on the season.

“We just want to be better. We want to be better than we were today,” Boissonneault said. “It’s going to be really important that we get our adrenaline and our focus where it needs to be at to play an out-of-conference team… We’re looking forward to another opportunity, and hopefully another win.”

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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