For the last two years, Air Force has come to Koskinen Stadium and upset Duke teams with a superior pedigree on paper. But to the start their 2018, the Blue Devils made it abundantly clear there would be no contest this time around. 

No. 1 Duke handled the Falcons 18-4, illustrating its potential as the best team in the nation. Not only did the Blue Devils physically dominate defensively, but the team’s ability to turn defense into offense with a lethal fast break was unguardable. It also did not hurt Duke’s chances that player-of-the-year hopeful and senior attackman Justin Guterding started off his campaign with a 10-point outing to start the year. 

“We had [losing to Air Force the last two years] on our mind,” Guterding said. “The entire fall, spring, we were really excited to play them again. We delivered.”

The talent on the Duke roster from every class year was readily apparent, as senior midfielder Matthew Giampetroni started the scoring for both sides after nearly nine minutes of action. The Bloomfield Hills, Mich., native opened the floodgates for the Duke offense from that point forward as Guterding, sophomores Joey Manown and Reilly Walsh, junior Brad Smith and freshman Joe Robertson all lit up the scoresheet. 

Walsh in particular featured the most eye popping shots, firing 100-mile-an-hour rockets from the midfield that left Falcon goalkeeper Noah Schwab helpless. 

It was that mix of veteran experience and young talent that earned the Blue Devils their No. 1 ranking before the season and provided head coach John Danowski with perhaps the most weapons he has ever had at his disposal on both sides of the ball. 

“Defensively, we’re a year older,” Danowski said. “Most everyone is back. Kevin McDonough, though he is a rookie, is also a fifth-year senior. He’s been a terrific addition. Terry Lindsay, Sean Cerrone, they’re all back so you hope there’d be a little more chemistry.... This is my first time ever playing three midfields throughout the game. We trust that third midfield group. Those three seniors, [Giampetroni, Jake Seau and David Gill], they all love each other and have great chemistry together.” 

The Duke defense returns redshirt senior goalkeeper and All-ACC selection Danny Fowler and fellow All-ACC pick at close defense, junior Cade Van Raaphorst. Between Van Raaphorst, sophomore JT Giles-Harris and senior defensive midfielder Cerrone, the Blue Devils routinely bullied Air Force at the point of attack, causing nine turnovers. 

The Blue Devils (1-0) also had the advantage of flexing what appears to be the most depth of any team in the nation, playing three midfield lines that all featured upperclassmen. Although the first midfield including Smith, fellow junior Sean Lowrie—who had a pair of goals to start the year—and graduate transfer Peter Conley was most productive, the all-senior third midfield line was a consistent force that wore the Falcons’ defense out, opening up lanes for the attack and other midfield lines alike. 

But the star of the day was undoubtedly Guterding. On his 23rd birthday, Guterding sparkled, dishing a career-high seven assists and scoring in every manner possible. The Garden City, N.Y., native put defenders in the spin cycle, sliced through double teams and launched a lefty time-and-room screamer to the bottom corner. 

After scoring 97 points a year ago, Guterding appears determined to get his team back to championship weekend for the first time of his career, beginning with his performance against Air Force (0-1), which won its conference the last two years. 

“[Getting the win today] is exciting,” Guterding said. “It doesn’t mean much for getting back to championship weekend, but it’s the first win, we’re happy to get it, we worked really hard for it. Keep working hard, and we’ll see where this goes.” 

The Blue Devils continue their home stand with a 7 p.m. matchup against High Point at Koskinen Stadium Thursday.