Duke hasn’t lost since Kyle Turri took over as the starting goaltender.
Steven Bao / Chronicle File Photo
Duke hasn’t lost since Kyle Turri took over as the starting goaltender.

Four weeks ago, sophomore goaltender Kyle Turri sat on the bench for most of the contest as Duke was throttled 16-7 by No. 1 Maryland. The loss dropped the Blue Devils team to 2-4—the program’s worst start since 1992.

Less than a week later, Turri stepped in between the pipes for his start of the season—replacing starter Dan Wigrizer, who has battled injuries throughout his senior year—and led Duke to a 9-8 upset victory against defending national champion Loyola.

The Blue Devils haven’t lost since and are now looking like one of the most dangerous teams in college lacrosse.

“It’s great for our defensive confidence. We were at a low point all over the place to begin the season. Defensively we just weren’t there,” Wigrizer said. “With Kyle playing well, that helps the defense relaxes a little bit and give up the shots we want to give up—the shots that Kyle can see and make saves on.”

Turri has been one of the main reasons for No. 9 Duke’s newfound defensive confidence, posting an 7.67 goals against average during the Blue Devils’ current six-game winning streak.

The sophomore’s dynamic and aggressive style in the cage has helped Duke to turn around a season that once looked lost.

“He’s played great position, he’s catching the ball well and the guys really believe in him,” Blue Devil head coach John Danowski said.

Lacrosse runs in the Turri family. Before he came to Duke, Turri watched his older brother, Justin, earn All-American honors twice during his Blue Devil career. His father, Bill, coached both of his sons as an assistant at West Islip High School in West Islip, N.Y. Turri said that he speaks on the phone with his father and brother almost every day and that the pair has been keeping up with his progress throughout the season.

After making just three starts during his freshman season, Turri has taken his game to new heights in 2013. The sophomore recorded a career-high 15 saves in Duke’s blowout win against Towson March 16.

Turri attributes his elevated confidence this season to his experience playing internationally last summer, when he represented the United States at the Under-19 World Lacrosse Championships in Turku, Finland. The United States took home the gold medal, and Turri was just one of two goaltenders on the roster, making two starts and recording three saves in the gold-medal game.

“It was just great to keep playing against top competition,” Turri said. “Most people only get the opportunity play in some summer leagues, but we were playing every single weekend for two months. It was just an opportunity to play some more against some of the best players in the world.”

Turri also said that Wigrizer has played an instrumental role in his success, saying that the senior has mentored him during Turri’s ascension to becoming Duke’s full-time goaltender.

“He’s been like another coach on the sidelines,” Turri said. “It’s great because he knows exactly where I’m coming from. None of coaches were goalies, so I’ll go over to Dan and he’ll say what he thought about the shot because he’s been in that position before.”

Wigrizer’s role will continue to become more vital for Turri’s development as the sophomore netminder prepares to make his first start in the NCAA Tournament next month.

The senior’s postseason experience—which includes the program’s only national championship and three trips to the national semifinals—is just what the young goaltender will need as he attempts to take Duke to its seventh consecutive championship weekend.

“I’ve had a lot of experience, and I haven’t lost a quarterfinal game yet,” Wigrizer said. “Just the mindset that I’ve carried over from the regular season to the postseason will hopefully be valuable for him.”