Yes, Duke is in the NCAA men’s lacrosse tournament for the 11th consecutive season.
The last two have been more like drive-by appearances, but the Blue Devils have every intention of sticking around longer this time.
Winner of three NCAA championships in a five-year stretch from 2010-2014, Duke hasn’t won an NCAA lacrosse tournament game over the last two seasons. When the Blue Devils play Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field in Baltimore on Saturday (2:30 p.m., ESPNU), they’ll seek their first tournament win since beating Notre Dame 11-9 on May 26, 2014, in the national title game.
Losses to Ohio State and Loyola (Maryland) in the last two tournaments still sting for a program accustomed to far more success.
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“Our class, we haven’t won anything,” Duke junior attackman Justin Guterding said. “Now juniors, we know that. Seventy-five percent of our team hasn’t won a playoff game. So the leaders on the team are really pushing to get back to where we belong.”
Though ranked No. 6 in the country, the Blue Devils (12-4) were the last team selected to this year’s tournament field, according to the NCAA selection committee.
“We knew we were one of the last teams in with the way the committee looks at it with the data,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “We are delighted and honored to be together and practicing another week.”
Still, that’s a far cry from the school’s back-to-back NCAA championship runs in 2013 and 2014. Guterding and his teammates aim to change that.
With 45 goals and 38 assists this season, Guterding figures to have a say in how things go for Duke this time around. He’s scored at least one goal in 25 consecutive games and has hat tricks in 10 of Duke’s 16 games this season.
He and senior attackman Jack Bruckner (43 goals) are the highest scoring attack tandem in the country. Guterding has assisted on 42 percent of Bruckner’s goals.
Bruckner has tallied at least one point (goal or assist) in 54 consecutive games, dating back to that NCAA final win over Notre Dame in 2014.
Duke has plenty of offensive firepower to put on display against No. 9 Johns Hopkins.
Defense and discipline will be just as important if Duke is to ends its two-year NCAA drought.
The Bluejays (8-6) lead the nation in finding success in man-up situations, scoring 61 percent of the time this season.
Duke, meanwhile, has denied goals 70 percent of the time while a man down. But Danowski would prefer the Blue Devils avoid those situations.
“The easy answer is not committing any fouls,” Danowski said. “That would be No. 1. Then No. 2 pray a little bit that they miss their shots. They are very talented. Very skilled players and they are well-coached.”
Duke has been a strong defensive team this season, allowing just 8.06 goals per game. That’s the Blue Devils’ lowest per-game average since 2009.
Senior goalkeeper Danny Fowler, a freshman on Duke’s last NCAA championship team, led the ACC this season in save percentage (.531) and goals-against average (8.44).
Duke vs. Johns Hopkins
When: 2:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Homewood Field, Baltimore