Men on a mission: Duke wins NCAA lacrosse championship
Casey Carroll cradled his 1-year-old son in his arms while Duke’s celebration raged around him at M&T Bank Stadium.
In the middle of that hooting, hollering and hugging stood Luke Duprey, who played defense for Duke on a right knee that has two torn ligaments and will need surgery next month.
While all the Blue Devils gave plenty all season to help win a second consecutive NCAA men’s lacrosse championship, these two seniors in particular stood out for their contributions not only to Monday’s 11-9 national title game win over Notre Dame but all season long.
Carroll began his Duke career in 2003. After the Blue Devils lost the 2007 NCAA final to Johns Hopkins, Carroll became an Army Ranger and saw combat action in Iran and Afghanistan.
Now 29 years old and married with two young children, he returned to Duke to play his final season eligibility last season. A torn knee ligament wiped out his season when Duke won the school’s second NCAA lacrosse championship.
But he played this season, starting on defense, and on Monday wore the satisfied look of a champion -- on the field and off.
“I could not be more grateful to Erin for sticking with me through all this,” Carroll said, mentioning his wife. “I’m never allowed to complain about life. It’s just so perfect.”
Duprey, a senior captain who is also a defender, suffered a catastrophic knee injury during an April 11 win at Virginia. He ignored doctors opinions that he wouldn’t be able to play again and returned to practice two weeks ago on his unstable knee.
His first game back was on Saturday when Duke beat Denver in the NCAA semifinals.
On Monday, his play was even more crucial.
“This is what I needed to do,” Duprey said during Duke’s post-game celebration. “This is what it was worth. Risking the knee. Risking the health. For this moment, again, it’s worth anything.”
After Notre Dame had trimmed a Duke lead from 8-2 to 9-7, Duprey ran half the field, battling two Irish defenders, to secure the ball and end a Notre Dame possession.
It would have been a big play if he was playing on two healthy knees. Doing so on one that will need surgery soon made it remarkable.
“That was kind of my defining moment for me right there where I knew it was really worth it to me to sacrifice the knee and let it all go to get the ball,” Duprey said. “That was what we needed.”
Duke coach John Danowski has seen his team build leads and sometimes let them shrink during the second halves of games this season. It cost Duke an NCAA Tournament game when Syracuse erased a 14-10 deficit in the fourth quarter to beat the Blue Devils 15-14.
But, with guys like Carroll and Duprey, national player of the year candidate Jordan Wolf and fellow captain Christian Walsh, Danowski felt he had the pieces to win another big prize.
“You've just got to keep playing, and somebody has got to make a play sometimes,” Danowski said. “Somebody has got to run past somebody or somebody is going to make a save or defend someone or pick up a ground ball.”
Danowski has led Duke to eight consecutive trips to the NCAA men’s lacrosse final four and, starting in 2010, has won three NCAA championships in the last five years.
“It’s mind-boggling what John Danowski has accomplished,” Duke athletics director Kevin White said on the sidelines at Monday’s championship game. “It’s way beyond remarkable. It’s historic in a lot of ways.”
Coupled with the national championship Duke’s women’s golf team won last Friday, the Blue Devils have two NCAA titles this school year. Duke has 15 national championships in school history, with women’s golf and men’s lacrosse having won nine of them.