Hommel hoping for another shot with Duke women's lacrosse team

lkeeley@newsobserver.comMay 18, 2013 

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Makenzie Hommel works against a UNC defender during their game on March 28, 2013. North Carolina won 12-11. Jon Gardiner/Duke Photography

JON GARDINER — Duke Photography

  • Duke (14-5) vs. No. 1 Maryland (20-0)

    When: Noon, Saturday

    Where: Field Hockey & Lacrosse Complex, College Park, Md.

    Broadcast: CBSSports.com

— With her career on the line last weekend, senior Makenzie Hommel, Duke’s leading goal scorer, was frantically looking for an Internet broadcast of the Duke-Princeton women’s lacrosse game as she tried to watch from her couch in Durham.

Hommel found one toward the end of the second half, just in time to see her teammates clinch a 10-9, double overtime win at Annapolis, Md., extending their season, and Hommel’s career, by at least one game. And with their second-round win over Navy May 12, the Blue Devils (14-5) earned a spot in the NCAA quarterfinals and will take on unanimous No. 1 Maryland (20-0) Saturday at noon at College Park, Md.

Hommel will travel with the team this weekend. Whether she plays, though, is still uncertain.

The senior, who leads Duke with 44 goals on the year, has been out since April 25th with a concussion sustained in the Blue Devils’ ACC tournament quarterfinals loss to Virginia. For the first two weeks after her injury, she couldn’t do any type of physical activity.

This week, though, she has been slowly working her way back into practice, with the hope that she will feel well enough to play the sport that she has been dedicated to since age 7 at least one more time.

“It’s definitely not easy,” Hommel said of sitting out, “But you have to take what’s right and do what’s right and also understand that it takes time.”

What was right last weekend was for Hommel to stay behind in Durham while the team traveled to Annapolis, a decision made with input from Duke’s athletic trainers. She wasn’t alone, though. Within an hour of hearing about the decision, Hommel’s mom, Lori Hommel, was on a plane to Durham.

“I didn’t know if she was going to be so sad,” Lori said. “But she was ready with a smile, and said, ‘I know they’re going to do it, they’re going to bring home a win.’ ”

So mother and daughter spent May 10 on the couch, searching for a live feed of the game against Princeton. There was excited yelling, tweeting, and, when freshman Maddy Acton scored the winning goal in double overtime, overwhelming pride. Sunday’s game against Navy, a 10-5 win, was less emotionally taxing.

“I couldn’t even think what it would be like if she wasn’t there and, God forbid, they didn’t win,” Lori said. “She loves it, she loves the team, and I just thought that she needed to be with them. I just felt that it wasn’t going to end – I knew it wasn’t going to end – because she wasn’t there.”

Hommel was able to compartmentalize her emotions, she said, and focus on the team and not the fact that she wasn’t playing. Her teammates kept her in the loop with constant individual and group-chat text messages. And even though she was in town, Hommel decided to skip her graduation ceremony, opting instead to wait for her teammates and participate in a smaller celebration Monday. And when the team bus arrived in Durham Sunday night, Hommel was there, waiting, and gave each player a hug as she stepped off the bus.

Hommel won’t have to worry about feeling disconnected from the team this weekend, as she will at least travel with them to College Park. Whether she plays or not depends on how she feels. A car accident during her freshman year that resulted in a fractured skull – an incident she prefers not to discuss – puts an even higher premium on making a wise medical decision.

“As coaches, you just accept the fact that maybe you’re not going to have someone in your lineup,” Duke coach Kerstin Kimel said. “I think that if we would have had her last weekend, the score differential would have been greater. She’s, on average a 2-3 goal scorer for us per game. But you just adjust, and you make due.”

Lori, isn’t worried about her daughter potentially playing. She trusts her judgment.

“Makenzie is an athlete,” she said. “And Makenzie knows her body. Makenzie is very, very smart, she knows what she’s capable of doing and she’s always felt that if she can’t be an asset to the team, then she doesn’t belong out there.”

Even if Makenzie is not on the field, she belongs on the sideline, instead of the couch, with her teammates she has trained with for the past four years. And that’s where she will be.

Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley

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