Aaron to make first-career start as Duke men's lacrosse faces 2 weekend tests
Duke will face off against a familiar foe and team it has not faced in more than 20 years this weekend.
After notching a win against No. 4 Denver on Feb. 15, the No. 1 Blue Devils will return to Koskinen Stadium to take the field against No. 18 Pennsylvania Friday at 7 p.m. Two days later, Duke will return to action at Koskinen to take on Stony Brook at noon.
Head coach John Danowski knows that his team will be facing off against a talented and experienced Quaker team that upset the Blue Devils 14-9 last season in Philadelphia.
Duke (2-0) has gone 1-2 against Pennsylvania in the teams’ last three match-ups.
“We are extremely aware that they have done an excellent job against us,” Danowski said. “Our guys are very aware of that. They are well coached.”
The Quakers return senior midfielder Zack Losco and senior defender Maxx Meyer, who both earned preseason All-America honorable mentions. Goalkeeper Brian Feeney also garnered an honorable mention, boasting a 58.9 save percentage last season.
Penn head coach Mike Murphy, a former captain at Duke in the 1990s, will be facing his alma mater. Murphy will lead Pennsylvania into its first matchup of the season, which means that the Quakers have had weeks to prepare for the contest. On the other hand, it has been less than a week since the Blue Devils last played.
“They can spend three weeks preparing for us, where we have four days,” Danowski said. “It gives them a slight advantage. But we are not using it as an excuse. That is all part of the dynamic of this game.”
Stony Brook (1-1), lost its season-opener 13-12 to Marist before bouncing back to trounce Lafayette 18-10. The Blue Devils are 2-0 all-time against the Sea Wolves, but the two teams have not met since the 1993 season.
Duke will be looking to carry the momentum from its first two games into a pivotal weekend that has the possibility to result in the Blue Devils’ first 4-0 start since 2008. A win against the Quakers would be the second-straight win against a top-25 opponent.
Solid defense has formed the backbone of the Duke team, as the defense is averaging a 96.9 percent clearing percentage this season and held its first two opponents to 12 and nine goals, respectively.
A recent rule change that has taken an emphasis off riding, or trying to hound the opposing player with the ball, has resulted in players trying send the ball upfield rather than knock around the opponent.
“There used to be a huge emphasis placed on riding,” Danowski said. “But the change in the rules, you are trying to get your offensive personnel on, defensive personnel off, so that has made it a little bit easier to clear.”
The defense is adapting to a change at goalkeeper, as sophomore Luke Aaron played the final three periods against Denver in place of junior Kyle Turri. Turri has struggled this season, posting just an 18.8 percent save percentage and giving up 13 goals in his first two games.
Danowski expects Aaron to make the first start of his collegiate career Friday and continue to see time in the net if he continues to play at a high level.
The Blue Devils are using these early games to find their team identity and build confidence heading into the important months of March and April. Giving younger players like Aaron time on the field could pay its dividends down the road as the team prepares for postseason play.
“We look at the calendar and we see in the calendar that it is so early in the year,” Danowski said. “But yet you have to start building on what you have seen in the first two games. You are looking to build a little chemistry and gain experience, especially the younger guys.”