A healthy competition

Maryvale grads Chrest, Huether drive each other, lead Duke, nation

May 26, 2006|By KATHERINE DUNN | KATHERINE DUNN,SUN REPORTER

Duke goalie Megan Huether vividly remembers the day two years ago when she and Blue Devils teammate Katie Chrest tangled.

All through practice, Huether repeatedly repelled Chrest's shots, frustrating her longtime friend and teammate.

"She stuffed me for like the eighth time in a row, and I just tackled her," Chrest said.

"It was a stick-side low shot," said Huether, with a laugh. "I didn't even have a chance to stand up all the way and she was pushing me. It was a full out tackle."

Although Chrest admitted her frustration got the better of her at that moment, Huether said, "It was just her competitiveness."

In a second, they were both laughing and so were their teammates.

For the two Maryvale graduates, that incident illustrates what has made them the top players in Division I women's lacrosse in their respective positions. Both are driven to get even better.

Chrest, the 2005 Offensive Player of the Year, is the reigning Tewaaraton Trophy winner as the best player in Division I women's lacrosse. Huether won the 2005 C. Markland Kelly Award as the best goalkeeper.

"They're still not satisfied and they still try to do new things," said Duke coach Kerstin Kimel. "When you lead your team to the final four and you're the attacker of the year and the goalkeeper of the year, what else do you have to do? They have that work ethic and that desire not just to be good but to be the best."

Day after day in practice they demonstrate the competitiveness, skill and hard work that have led No. 1 Duke to its second straight final four, where the Blue Devils (18-2) will take on defending national champion Northwestern tonight at Nickerson Field in Boston.

Chrest and Huether have played on the same team for eight years, starting with a Maryland Youth Lacrosse All-Star Game. As seniors at Maryvale, they led the Lions to the IAAM A Conference championship. Chrest was The Sun's All-Metro Player of the Year and Huether, the first-team goalie.

Even then, they played at a higher level than their peers.

Chrest was often wild on defense, but she could create space and nail the trickiest shot. Huether sometimes got a bit too bold coming out of the cage, but she picked off a lot of passes and regularly stuffed opponents.

"They both played so much faster than everyone else and you wanted to exploit that as much as possible," said their high school coach, Erin Stewart.

"When Megan got the ball if she could find Katie, Katie was ready to go on the attack right away. In high school, they were able to play off each other's aggressive style of play."

Chrest, a member of the U.S. National Team, is the Blue Devils' all-time leading scorer with 284 points and 213 goals, but she still gets irked when she can't get the ball past Huether, who is on the U.S. Developmental Team.

"As frustrated as I get, I appreciate the fact that I'm better for having played against her, but she's so good I definitely have to remind myself of that a lot," said Chrest, who leads Duke with 61 goals and has 19 assists this season.

Huether, Duke's all-time save leader who has a .524 save rate this season, feels the same way.

"I get scored on a lot [by Chrest], but what I see in practice is going to be more difficult than what I see in a game," Huether said. "I believe you can't compete with the best if you're not playing the best every day."

Maryland coach Cindy Timchal has seen the results of their efforts, most recently in the Blue Devils' 19-9 victory over the Terrapins in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinals.

"They have obviously grown together," Timchal said. "When one of them has the ball, good things are going to happen. They have that kind of presence on the field. They've been a big part of putting Duke in contention for a title."

In the past few months, Chrest said the women have felt they also were playing for the Duke men's team after its season was canceled amid allegations of rape at a March team party.

"It's been difficult," said Chrest, adding that the two teams were close. "The day Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were indicted, there were tears shed at practice. Everyone was a bit distracted, but I think our coaches have done an incredible job of channeling how much of our thought is going into that and focusing it in the right direction."

In the final four, some of the women plan to wear sweatbands that might include simple messages of support for the men's team, a spokesman in the sports information department said.

Tonight the two newly minted Duke graduates won't have any trouble focusing on the prize - bringing that first national women's lacrosse title home to Durham, N.C. Both would prefer that to any more individual honors.

"Winning [the Tewaaraton Trophy] was a huge honor obviously," Chrest said, "but I wrote an e-mail to the team afterward and told them I would rather have a trophy that 35 of us can share. That's really important to me."

katherine.dunn@baltsun.com

Women's final four

At Boston

Today's semifinals

Duke (18-2) vs. Northwestern (18-1), 6 p.m.

Dartmouth (13-5) vs. Notre Dame (15-3), 8:30 p.m. Sunday's championship

Semifinal winners, noon, ESPN

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