LOWER-PROFILENCAA championship events tend to be family-friendly affairs, so perhaps it's nosurprise that the only catcalls heard before Duke and Northwestern met in awomen's lacrosse semifinal last Friday were directed at the media. As areporter walked through the stands at Boston University's Nickerson Field, amiddle-aged man with the blue-on-blue wardrobe of a Duke daddy, spotting amedia credential, hissed at him, then apologized. "Sorry," the mansaid, "it's your badge."
Some Duke fansare frustrated by the attention that has been focused on the men's lacrosseteam since March, when a woman hired as a stripper for a team party said shewas raped. Three players have been indicted; an ugly e-mail written by anotherplayer was made public; the coach resigned; the season was suspended; and theschool has experienced a small dip in the number of accepted students who saythey will come. With the top-ranked women's team in the final four, the storynever strayed far from the rape charges--but that was thanks in part to thewomen's decision to wear sweatbands emblazoned with the men's team slogan, NOEXCUSES, NO REGRETS, to show solidarity.
The game beingovershadowed turned out to be a great one. Duke and Northwestern traded leadsin a taut defensive battle, and Northwestern won in overtime 11-10. The gamefelt like a final; in the real thing on Sunday, the Wildcats, helped by juniorKristen Boege (below), dismissed Dartmouth 7-4 to win their second straighttitle.
In Duke'spostgame press conference coach Kerstin Kimel responded testily to a questionabout the sweatbands, which reports had said would read INNOCENT. When askedabout the discrepancy, Kimel snapped, "Would you believe everything that'sprinted?" Then came the unburdening. Holding back tears, Kimel, 34, spokeof how proud she was of her players. She lauded them for staying focused whilehaving "media staked out at your practice ... and outside of your dorm, andwatching your friends be arrested, having your parents hounded by the 24-hournews cycle because they want comment from you, watching your fellow studentsnot support fellow students, watching professors not supportstudents...."
As their coachdescribed a season gone out of control, three players sat next to her withtheir heads propped on their hands. They had lost their chance to make everyonewrite a happy story about Duke lacrosse.