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Kimel’s players texted her every day she went to the cancer center, got pink extensions in their hair, wore pink socks on senior day to honor breast cancer awareness and recorded a video with messages of support and laughter for her last day of chemotherapy in June 2015. “Our team and that season got me through those eight treatments without a doubt,” Kimel said.


Samantha Ekstrand, the IWLCA attorney and also Kimel’s neighbor, and Ekstrand’s sister, one-time Duke assistant Stefanie Sparks Smith, organized Duke alumni to start a fund to buy groceries for Kimel and hire a local chef to make meals. “We just tried to find practical and meaningful ways to make their life a little easier, a little more comfortable, and if we could, less stressful, so that the Kimel family could focus on Kerstin getting better,” Ekstrand said.


Ekstrand named the fund “Duke Lax


Love,” a saying that traces back to 2006, when Kimel’s team found itself unexpectedly entangled in the firestorm surrounding the Duke men’s lacrosse team. Three players faced rape charges that ultimately were proven baseless. David Evans, Colin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann were innocent — and the final four-bound Blue Devils women were prepared to support them. Kimel mentioned to a local reporter that Duke might wear wristbands or perform another gesture to demonstrate their beliefs. It made front-page headlines the next day and became low-hanging fruit for national sports critics like Stephen A. Smith and Dan Patrick. “My Blackberry started to blow up with messages,” Kimel said.


Upon arriving in Boston, Kimel sat down her team in the Boston University locker room, again addressing the Blue Devils with a calm demeanor and sense


supporting the Duke men’s lacrosse players when others in the campus community shunned them. Ekstrand, whose law firm represented more than 30 players in the proceedings, recalled pot-banging protests calling out the “blue wall of silence,” since the players would not admit to the allegations. Those who showed support were ostracized and chastised, Ekstrand said, but “in the midst


Diagnosed with breast cancer during preseason in 2015, Kimel underwent three surgeries before the season and several rounds of chemotherapy during it. Alumni started a “Duke Lax Love” fund to buy her groceries and hire a chef, all while she coached the Blue Devils to the NCAA semifinals.


of strength. Ultimately they decided to inscribe the men’s team motto, “No Excuses, No Regrets,” on wristbands. Some players wrote messages on their legs in blank ink, while others, like center Rachel Sanford, wrote “innocent” on her headband, because she knew she would appear on television taking the draw. “Wow,” Kimel said. “Talk about courageous.”


But it was Kimel who stood out for 44 US LACROSSE MAGAZINE April 2017


of all of that unrest and hostility, Kerstin Kimel stood strong behind her colleague, Mike Pressler, and his players and spoke out. History not only proved her right, it shone a light on her strength of character and integrity.”


Kimel channeled the resolve of her 2006 players as she prepared for the fight of her life in 2015. She showed up to practices, even if it meant coaching from a stool and even if it was immediately after


USlacrosse.org


©GEORGE JENNISON


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