Duke women's lacrosse prepares early for later NCAA tourney start

lkeeley@newsobserver.comMay 9, 2013 

— As the Duke women’s lacrosse team prepares for its first round NCAA tournament game against Princeton, coach Kerstin Kimel is thinking about more than Xs and Os.

She also has been trying to sync up her team’s biorhythms for the 7:15 p.m. start Friday in Annapolis, Md.

“An away night game for a young team is really hard to manage. It’s a lot of downtime in the hotel,” Kimel said. “When the kids have school work, they can take time and you can build in some study time, and that’s how you keep them busy and occupied, but they have no school work right now. So the idea of having to manage a whole day, and we’ll have a walkthrough and everything like that, but we want our bodies (ready). Biorhythms are really important.”

Final exams ended last week for the No. 8-ranked Blue Devils (12-5), giving them much more free time, which can be good and bad, senior Mackenzie Hummel said.

“The challenge we’ve been worried about for our younger girls, and even for us, is managing that time all day,” said Hummel, who leads Duke with 44 goals but has not been cleared to play after suffering a concussion in the ACC tournament. “Keeping us busy is what’s key right now.”

Kimel, an All-American at Maryland in the early 90s, gave her team a schedule to help them prepare for Friday’s game. Wake up and eat breakfast by 10. Eat lunch between 2-3. Come watch film and practice around 5:15 and finished around 7:30, close to Friday’s start time. Eat dinner afterward.

“They get in that rhythm, because that’s clearly not the rhythm they’ve been in this semester at all,” Kimel said.

The Blue Devils have played one game in the past two weeks, an 18-9 victory at Boston University on May 5. Before that, Duke was upset in the opening game of the ACC tournament by Virginia.

That 10-7 loss refocused the group, as the Blue Devils organized some players-only practices and film sessions. Kimel and her staff, adjusting their schedule to finals week, shortened practices, going for only 75-90 minutes and not lingering on any drill for more than 10 minutes to keep her team fresh.

In addition to managing biorhythms, Kimel also tries to educate her team about nutrition, another off-the-field point of emphasis.

“I just think in today’s age, where we’re getting kids that are so busy, and all they do is literally run from school to music to practice. And they get home at like 9 o’clock, and they’re eating fast food,” she said. “In general, we’re getting kids that are not educated on how to take care of themselves or eat well to perform at this level. That’s been a big thing for me. We spend a lot of time talking about it, we have a nutritionist that works with our team.”

The nutrition guidelines aren’t hard-and-fast rules, Kimel said. They’re more like “strong suggestions.” Certain times call for high-protein meals, for instance. And less-than-ideal habits, like eating Snickers and drinking Coke before a game, as one former player did, can be corrected sooner rather than later.

“Left on their own, I don’t think kids, in general, do the best job with that,” Kimel said. “The onus is on us. If we want them performing well when it’s game time, they need to have some kind of background in it in order to do that.”

The Blue Devils, making their 16th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, have that background. All that’s left is to go out and perform.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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