Asked if the Duke men’s lacrosse team’s recent run to three national championships in five years could be considered a dynasty, coach John Danowski preferred a different D-word.
“It’s Duke,” Danowski said after the Blue Devils held off Atlantic Coast Conference rival Notre Dame to emerge with an 11-9 victory in Monday’s NCAA national championship before an announced 25,587 at M&T Bank Stadium. “We have this opportunity. … For the kids who come here, it’s hard. It’s hard academically. We push them, and they accept that, and they want to be part of something that’s greater than themselves.”
The Blue Devils ended the season with a 17-3 record and became the first repeat champion since Syracuse won back-to-back titles in 2008 and 2009. The Blue Devils, who also won in 2010, became the first program to win three NCAA championships in five years since the Orange won in 2000, 2002 and 2004.
There were a few anxious moments, however, for top-seeded Duke. The sixth-seeded Fighting Irish (12-6) rallied from an 8-2 deficit with 6:40 left in the third quarter and trailed, 10-9, after freshman midfielder Sergio Perkovic converted a pass from junior attackman Conor Doyle (Gilman) with 49.6 seconds left in regulation.
But Blue Devils senior Brendan Fowler won the ensuing faceoff — he finished 13 of 22 in the game — over Notre Dame senior Liam O’Connor, and after a Duke timeout, senior attackman Jordan Wolf evaded a double team in the corner and scored the ball into an empty net with 23.6 seconds remaining to secure the win.
“We knew they were going to make their run,” said Wolf, who led all scorers with six points (two goals, four assists). “We just needed a couple plays to get them off their rhythm a little bit.”
Wolf reached several benchmarks in his final game with the Blue Devils. His 103 points broke the previous school record of 97 set by former attackman Matt Danowski in 2008.
With his second assist, Wolf, a Tewaaraton Award finalist, compiled 300 points in his career. With his third assist, he became the first Duke player with 100 points in a season.
Wolf, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, was helped by two goals and one assist from sophomore midfielder Myles Jones, and two goals each from junior attackman Kyle Keenan and sophomore midfielder Deemer Class (Loyola). Sophomore goalkeeper Luke Aaron made nine saves for Duke.
The Fighting Irish’s rally in the second half was sparked by Perkovic, who scored four of his five goals in a 19:30 stretch spanning the final two quarters.
“Duke did a great job in the first half disrupting our offense, and they weren’t really sliding,” Perkovic said. “They were pressing out, and in the second, I just really wanted to beat my guys since they weren’t sliding and try to take advantage of them not sliding.”
Besides Perkovic, Matt Kavanagh was the only other Notre Dame player to finish with multiple points.
Kavanagh had two goals on four shots and one assist, but he was stymied by Duke senior defenseman Henry Lobb, who shadowed every move the sophomore attackman made. Kavanagh had recorded 10 goals and five assists in three postseason games before Monday.
Coach Kevin Corrigan said he thought that Fowler moved early on the faceoff after Perkovic’s last goal in the final minute of regulation.
“I didn’t think there was any question, but I wasn’t the guy with the whistle,” Corrigan said.
But Corrigan said a first half in which the Fighting Irish scored just one goal on nine shots, committed 11 of 15 turnovers, and collected just 10 ground balls to the Blue Devils’ 17 was the primary culprit in the program falling to 0-2 all-time in NCAA title games. Notre Dame lost to Duke, 6-5, in overtime in 2010.
“Just played 30 minutes of poor lacrosse to start the game,” Corrigan said. “I don’t know what to attribute that to, but it’s my responsibility, and we didn’t come out prepared to play our best lacrosse.”
Notes: The announced attendance for the final was the smallest since the title game was moved to NFL stadiums for the 2003 season. ... In addition to Wolf, the All-tournament team included Class, junior short-stick defensive midfielder Will Haus, Jones, Keenan and Lobb from Duke; Kavanagh, Kelly and Perkovic from Notre Dame; and sophomore attackman Wesley Berg from Denver.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun