With an offense that lacked significant experience before coming into the 2019 season, JMU lacrosse’s immaturity popped out in the Dukes’ 14-9 loss to the No. 8 Virginia Cavaliers.
Tasked with an aggressive, face-guarding defense, JMU’s attack recorded a .273 shooting percentage — its worst of the season and only its second game shooting below 36 percent. Four Dukes combined for 10 shots that resulted in zero goals, a testament to the number of missed opportunities.
“That’s going to be an area that we’re going to be focusing on, just our maturity to finish the play on the offensive end,” head coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe said.
If general offensive struggles weren’t enough, the timeliness of them made things even worse. JMU had three man-up opportunities and couldn’t find the net on any, one of which UVA turned into a goal of its own.
“That’s just tough because that opportunity is right there, that’s kind of a momentum change when you score man up,” senior attacker Hanna Haven said. “So without having that three times in one game, it was kind of tough.”
Several shots clinked off the post and a number fell right onto the body of Virginia’s junior goalkeeper Charlie Campbell. The New York native had 15 saves off 33 shots — both season highs.
“I think our team made our own mistakes tonight,” junior midfielder Halle Duenkel said. “They had great defensive sets, however I think our offense is definitely stronger than what we presented tonight with all the missed opportunities.”
A 5-0 run at the midway point of the first half made the difference for the Cavaliers, who only let their lead shrink to as low as four through the remainder of the night. The inability to stop that run and make one of their own was yet another exposure to the team’s inexperience through the early portion of the season.
Strong outings from both senior attacker Avery Shoemaker and junior midfielder Sammy Mueller banged JMU up on the defensive side. Shoemaker had her second-highest mark in goals this season (5) off a season-high in shots (9), while Mueller chimed in with five assists.
“That’s on [the] offense,” Klaes-Bawcombe said. “We had our chances, we were getting 1-v-goalie shots, and we just couldn’t get the ball behind the net.”
Despite a low shooting percentage and combined 11 points from Mueller and Shoemaker, JMU stayed within reach for a majority of the game behind strong play from redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Molly Dougherty and Duenkel. Dougherty’s fourth game with 10 or more saves complemented Duenkel’s second straight hat trick, her fourth in five outings.
The Dukes don’t have much time to weigh down on the loss, as they host No. 2 Maryland this Sunday. It’ll be a busy weekend for the team, as alumni will be coming in from across the country to honor the program’s 50th year of existence with a banquet Saturday night and a ceremony on the field at halftime on Sunday. Hitting practice hard and properly managing a busy schedule will play a huge role in getting the team prepared for what may be its toughest opponent all season.
“Attitude,” Klaes-Bawcombe said. “Attitude and effort right now, those are the things that we can control. We’ve always said we’re not afraid to lose, and that’s never more important than right now.”
Contact Blake Pace at email@example.com. For more lacrosse coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.