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Lacrosse

Duke's Henry Lobb passes test, slows Notre Dame's Matt Kavanagh in title game

Henry Lobb stood up against the wall in the tunnel at M&T Bank Stadium, fumbling through words while trying to catch his breath.

For most of Monday afternoon, the Duke senior defenseman stood on the stadium field with his knees bent, long stick in hand while chasing around one player: Notre Dame sophomore attackman Matt Kavanagh.

Lobb zoned in on Kavanagh, who torched Maryland's top-ranked defense in the semifinals for seven points (five goals and two assists) to lead the No. 6 Notre Dame to Monday's national championship against No. 1 Duke.

But Lobb knew, come Monday, Kavanagh couldn't have his way with a Blue Devils team that's most known for its high-potent offense. He knew the Duke defense had to come to play. And that, it did.

Matched up one-on-one with Kavanagh nearly all game, Lobb held Notre Dame's leading scorer to just two goals and one assist to help Duke claim its second straight national title with a 11-9 victory over the Fighting Irish.

After the game, however, Lobb didn't take much of the credit for Kavanagh's struggles.

"Obviously, it was just great for us, because … I don't know. I'm just speechless," said Lobb as he gasped for air while smiling. "In the back of our minds, we always knew we had a great group of guys down on our end. So it was just a matter of time for us to kind of just make it all happen."

A day before the game, Duke coach John Danowski rattled off a simple answer for how his team would attempt to limit Notre Dame's surging attackman.

"We always have to be mindful of where he is," he said, "limit his touches and be able to slide to him quickly."

Danowski gave no indication of which one of his defensemen would be given the task of guarding the elite scorer.

But Lobb already knew that Kavanagh would be his assignment. In Duke's 15-7 win against Notre Dame on April 5, Lobb went one-on-one with the attackman and didn't allow him to record any points.

Similar to Danowski, Lobb had a simple approach to the matchup.

"He's a great player. I know he likes his left hand. I think the country knows that. So I just try to sit there on that side," Lobb said. "Obviously, he's fast, too, and with a fast guy, I like to crowd him."

At 6 feet 4, 205 pounds, Lobb is eight inches taller and outweighs Kavanagh by 35 pounds. Using the size advantage, Lobb and the Duke defense only allowed Kavanagh to touch the ball 15 times in Monday's title game, most of which he elected to pass.

Kavanagh didn't take his first shot of the game until the 8:05 mark in the second quarter — a goal out of a timeout that freed him from Lobb after a pick. The attackman's second goal didn't come until the fourth quarter after a loose ball scramble drew Lobb away long enough for him to take a shot.

Two minutes later, Kavanagh assisted freshman midfielder Sergio Perkovic on a goal. The assist lifted Kavanagh to 75 points on the season — a Notre Dame single-season record — but it would be ultimately be his last touch of the game with 11:01 left on the clock.

"I was kind of getting shut off a little bit throughout the game," said Kavanagh, who took just four shots. "Wasn't really getting any touches, getting into the flow of our offense."

In his last game in a Duke uniform, Lobb shut down one of the nation's top attackmen.

As his voice crackled while trying to sum up his performance, the two crispest words he spoke were "team effort."

But after Lobb propped himself up from the wall in the stadium tunnel and walked down the hall to Duke's locker room, there stood Casey Carroll, who couldn't help but praise his fellow senior defenseman for the job he did.

"Henry, when you give him an assignment, he takes it to heart. He did incredible," Carroll said. "There are very few guys in the country that have that ability, and Henry's definitely one of those guys."

adodson@baltsun.com

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