Having played each other in 21 of the last 22 seasons, Duke and Georgetown are very familiar with one another. So, too, is the Hoyas’ first-year head coach Kevin Warne with Blue Devil head coach John Danowski, who coached Warne during his standout career at Hofstra.
Georgetown (3-4) will travel to Koskinen Stadium Saturday to take on No. 12 Duke (5-4).
“[Danowski] is one of the greatest guys in the lacrosse business,” Warne said. “He has always been one of my mentors.”
When then-No. 18 Georgetown hosted then-No. 10 Duke last season, the Blue Devils handed the Hoyas a 13-11 defeat. This season, Georgetown is an unranked squad that is already below .500. To make matters worse for the Hoyas, senior Brian Casey—who ranks second on the team in scoring with 11 goals this season—went down with an injury in Georgetown’s conference-opener against Providence March 16. The Hoyas faltered without Casey in their 13-8 loss to No. 9 Loyola Wednesday evening, struggling to keep pace with the Greyhounds’ high-octane offense. In spite of outscoring Loyola 8-6 in the second half, Georgetown could not overcome a 7-1 halftime deficit, which it faced as a result of the Greyhounds’ strong transition play and stalwart man-down unit.
“[Those factors] nipped us in the butt,” Georgetown sophomore Reilly O’Connor said. “But we played with more urgency in the second half, and it really showed.”
The Hoyas will rely on O’Connor—who is having a breakout sophomore campaign after registering just three goals and one assist in 13 games last season—for the majority of their offensive production. He leads the team in points and assists, with 21 and 11, repsectively. He was named to the Big East Weekly Honor Roll for the first time in his career this week after recording four goals and six assists in the Hoyas’ 16-8 win against Providence. Duke’s Bill Conners, Chris Hipps, Henry Lobb or Dan DiMaria—a transfer from Harvard who Warne coached during his assistant coaching stint with the Crimson—will match up defensively against O’Connor.
“Defensively, we don’t focus on individual matchups [in advance],” Danowski said.
Duke, which has shown increased chemistry on the defensive end of the field, is riding a four-game winning streak that includes signature wins against then-No. 4 Loyola and then-No. 6 North Carolina. Sophomore goaltender Kyle Turri made his first start of the season against Loyola after junior starter Dan Wigrizer was sidelined due to injury in the Blue Devils’ matchup against Maryland. He has adjusted well to the starting role, garnering ACC Defensive Player of the Week honors for the first time in his career following the North Carolina and Towson games.
“[Duke] has guys with a lot of game experience,” Warne said. “The defense is fantastic, and Kyle Turri has really settled in in typical Duke fashion.”
A bright spot for Georgetown against Loyola was the play of redshirt junior Tyler Knarr, the Hoyas’ faceoff man. Knarr went 16-for-23 at the faceoff X and picked up eight ground balls in Georgetown’s loss to the Greyhounds. Repeating a similar feat against Duke’s faceoff specialist, junior Brendan Fowler, will be a challenge. Fowler, who ranks eighth in the country with a 60.8 faceoff percentage, has won the faceoff battle in nine out of the 10 games that the Blue Devils have played this season. He struggled against No. 1 Maryland’s faceoff men but posted dominant performances at the X against then-No. 9 Denver, then-No. 3 Notre Dame, Pennsylvania, then-No. 4 Loyola and then-No. 6 North Carolina.
“It helps defensively that Fowler is doing a great job at the faceoff X,” Warne said. “It helps you play the way you want to play and do what you want to do defensively.”