Defending NCAA champ Duke passes 1st lacrosse test
Defending NCAA champion and No. 1-ranked Duke began its men’s lacrosse season with a decisive 16-10 victory over Jacksonville at Koskinen Stadium Saturday.
Senior attackman Josh Dionne started his season with five goals and an assist, while fellow attackmen Jordan Wolf (2 goals, 4 assists) and Chad Cohan (2 goals, 3 assists) each added their own collection of balls into the net behind Dolphins’ keeper Pete DeLuca who finished with an impressive 16 saves.
With the exception of an atypical Fall Ball scrimmage against newly minted Division I program Furman, the Blue Devils had only practiced, scrimmaged and challenged themselves since winning the program’s second national title last May.
Following the team’s practice on Thursday, head coach John Danowski couldn’t give a clear answer of what this year’s team was capable of doing this season.
“You don’t know,” Danowski said. “Until you step on the field, you don’t know what you have or what you’re working with. I love the kids, I love who they are, what they’ve done in the classroom, what they do in the weight room, what they do in practice. But, in terms of who we are as a team is yet to be discovered.”
Duke took a little while to get going Saturday, but when it did, the goals came in bunches.
“I thought Jacksonville was terrific,” Danowski said. “They played with a lot of emotion and they were really well prepared, really well coached, and their new pieces suited them very well.”
Led by Duncan Clancy (2 goals, 3 assists), Dakota Rohlin (3 goals), and Tom Moore (2 goals, 1 assist), the Dolphins’ offensive effort was impressive.
Falling behind 3-0 after the first seven minutes of play, the Blue Devils struggled to keep pace with energetic Jacksonville.
“The ball wasn’t really going our way too much,” Wolf said. “Give Jacksonville credit — they put together a bunch of great shots.”
Freshman Thomas Zenker scored his first collegiate goal as well as Duke’s first goal of the year as the Blue Devils trailed 3-1 with 1:23 to go in the opening quarter.
Taking time to regroup between quarters, Duke then put together a typical scoring run early in the second quarter.
Though Deluca made many impressive stops throughout the game, facing a total of 44 shots eventually caught up with him, as the Blue Devils finally found the soft spots in the Jacksonville defense to get better shot selections on him.
Five different scorers including Cohan and Wolf, Kyle Keenan (2 goals, 2 assist), Myles Jones (2 goals), and Christian Walsh (1 goal) added six more goals that extended Duke’s lead to 7-3 with 2:46 remaining in the opening half.
“We were a little excited coming out of the gate,” Dionne said.
“We wanted to come out flyin’. I think it was just kind of a reality check. Coach Danowski rallied the troops and kind of gave us some time to catch our breath and said — “okay, we’re gonna’ be okay.”
“Then we kind of went to our senior leaders like Jordan and Luke (Duprey) and they dialed us in, and we played Duke lacrosse.”
As powerful as the Blue Devils’ surge was, Jacksonville never went away and trailed 7-5 at halftime.
Brendan Fowler, Duke’s All-American faceoff specialist, won 18 of 28 at the X as he battled the Dolphins’ Jet Harding (10 of 26) most of the game, and eventually eased into the game to get his rhythm on the draw after losing his first two.
“We knew going in that we did not have a great day against them last year,” Danowski said. “Brendan was prepared (to adjust) and their kid did a good job.”
With the Duke offense getting the rust knocked off and finding ways to beat DeLuca, the defense followed suit and calmed down to cause Jacksonville to turn the ball over 21 times while winning the ground ball possession game 46-25.
During the final two quarters, Duke outscored the Dolphins 9-5, but put themselves in man-down situations that goalkeeper Kyle Turri (2 saves) and the long poles in front of him had to work extra hard to climb out of.