Halle Duenkel isn’t complaining, and the senior demonstrates a mature perspective on what became a tough-luck spring sports season for the James Madison University women’s lacrosse player.
The attack never got to play during her senior season for the Dukes. The Langley High School graduate and Great Falls resident missed the team’s first six matches recovering from a serious left-hip injury suffered during the 2019 campaign. Then, as Duenkel was healed and ready to play this spring with a March 23 match against Liberty University expected to be her first action, the rest of the 2020 scheduled was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Duenkel already has a job lined up starting in September and has decided not to return for a fifth season, an option the NCAA granted to 2020 spring athletes.
“I don’t feel cheated and you can’t fret over this,” Duenkel said. “Lacrosse is not my identity. It’s part of who I am, not who I am.”
Duenkel admitted it would have been fun to play at least one match this spring, and she almost got that chance. During the team’s trip to play Canisius for a March 13 match, the Dukes received word the season could be soon canceled.
So Duenkel made a phone call during the trip and received clearance from her doctor that she could play against Canisius. But shortly after that call ended, that match, then the season were canceled.
“There was a lot of crying, hurting and even laughter when the season was canceled,” Duenkel said. “To see everyone hurting and so upset, hurt me more for them. This whole thing is a very humbling experience.”
Duenkel, who suffered a serious right knee injury while in high school, worked hard to return for the 2020 season, crediting her doctors and team trainers for getting her ready.
“I was doing everything I could and they got me back ready to play,” she said. “What is it with me? When I get injured, I tear up everything. Both were separate challenges. Right knee, left hip. That’s enough.”
Overall, Duenkel’s time with the James Madison team, which was off to a 5-1 start this spring, was highly accomplished. She played on the 2018 national-title and region-title teams, in addition to three straight conference-championship squads, with a chance to win a history-making fourth in a row in 2020.
“We were so excited for that opportunity,” Duenkel said.
The Dukes were projected as national contenders this spring as well.
The computer-information-systems major, who also has a couple of minors, finished her career with 43 goals, eight assists, gathered 35 ground balls and caused 22 turnovers. She played in 54 matches.
As it turns out, Duenkel’s senior season wasn’t a total loss when it came to accomplishments.
In May, she received the prestigious 2020 national Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award. The award recognizes the accomplishments of athletes who help their teams achieve success in ways that may not be measured in goals, saves or ground balls. The honor places value on kindness and generosity.
The award recipients receive a sum of money to be given to their favorite charity. Duenkel made her donation to INOVA Life with Cancer.
That award was the latest of many off-the-field accolades received by the honor-role student at Madison.
“At JMU, we pride ourselves in being more than just great lacrosse student-athletes,” JMU coach Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe said. “Halle Duenkel has been on a mission. She has provided a vision and path, and influenced our program to excel off the field in the area of service to the community.”
More on the Yeardley Reynolds Love Unsung Hero Award can be found at www.jmusports.com.