More national champs

May. 27, 2014 @ 05:20 PM

When it comes to Duke University athletic teams, there’s no question the largest shadow by far is cast by the men’s basketball team. Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s 34 remarkable seasons – 910  wins, four national championships, 82 NCAA tournament wins -- merit every ounce of the attention showered upon them.

But after the tents have come down in Krzyzewskiville, after the last televised replay of “The Shot,” some pretty exciting things have been happening every year with Duke’s spring sports teams.

Within the past week, two teams – women’s golf and men’s lacrosse – have added two more national championships to Duke’s portfolio. And those two teams are achieving dynastic proportions.

In fact, together they account for nine of the school’s 15 national championships.  The women’s golf team, which has dominated its sport in recent years, has won six – including three in a row from 2005 to 2007.

For the men’s lacrosse team, their victory over Notre Dame Monday gave them their first back-to-back championships.

Generally, the spring sports play to smaller crowds with far less media attention than the marquee sports of basketball and football. But that doesn’t mean the players bring any less intensity to the field.

Take, for example, Luke Duprey, a key figure in Duke’s win over Notre Dame. A serious knee injury at Virginia April 11 led team doctors to conclude his season was over. But Duprey wouldn’t accept that verdict, and two weeks ago convinced the doctors he could return to practice and action in the final games.

And with Notre Dame cutting into Duke’s lead, he ran half the field to break up an Irish possession and help secure the win.

“This is what it was worth,” Duprey, who faces knee surgery next month, said after the game. “Risking the knee. Risking the health. For this moment, again, it’s worth anything.”

You can doubt the wisdom of his decision to play – but you can’t doubt the passion.

There are other fascinating story lines in Duke’s latest champions. Casey Carroll played his last year of college lacrosse eligibility this season – at age 29, after a stint with the Army Rangers in Iran and Afghanistan and a torn knee ligament last season.

Every member of the women’s golf team was born overseas. "It's such an international thing right now that we do," head coach Dan Brooks told WRAL. "It's actually created a lot of humor, having all of these different languages and everybody trying to communicate with each other."

Brooks has coached the Duke team to each of its six championships. “I can’t imagine any one of the other championships being better,” Brooks said Friday. “I’ll just at least say that.”

For Brooks, for lacrosse coach John Danowski, and for the superb players they have led to national prominence this season, we say congratulations – and thanks for adding to the list of great things that happen in Durham.