Immediately after Saturday’s 10-8 win against No. 20 Towson at Johnny Unitas Stadium, the No. 3 Duke men’s lacrosse team trekked to the airport. But the players and coaches were not traveling back to Durham, N.C., instead flying to Cleveland to take on Cleveland State in a game scheduled for Sunday at 1 p.m.
Playing two games in as many days might seem like a recipe for an upset loss for the Blue Devils (7-1), but that’s not the way coach John Danowski views it.
“I think it’s a neat challenge for our guys because they just want to play,” he said after Saturday’s game. “They’re still kids, and kids want to play lacrosse. It’s another opportunity to make saves and pick up faceoffs for [freshman] Joe [Stein] here and for [senior attackman] Justin [Guterding] to shoot or find the open man and play against someone. Otherwise, they’d be laying around on the last day of spring break in their dorm rooms. The schedule doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s a great opportunity. If you want to play for an ACC championship, you have to play two games in three days, and how do you know what that’s like? So for us, it’s kind of preparation to do that.”
But what about the players’ energy levels? Danowski said he asked the Tigers to move up Saturday’s game to Friday, but his request was declined. Guterding said he is not worried about the players running out of gas against the Vikings (2-6).
“I think we’re built for this,” he said. “We’re very athletic. We’ve got tough guys that can scrap through this. So I think we’re kind of excited for this challenge. No one in the country is doing this. No one’s playing two games in two days. So I think guys are just going to fight through this.”
Expect Duke to throw out its usual starting lineup against Cleveland State. But if the Blue Devils gain a sizable advantage, they might go to their reserves quickly — a scenario that graduate student goalkeeper Danny Fowler fully endorsed.
“We also have a lot of depth and a lot of guys who the outside world doesn’t get to see perform but who are performing in practice every day,” he said. “So we have full faith in those guys if guys are a little too banged up or tired. But I think we’re mentally tough enough to push through tomorrow.”