Duke flew into South Bend for a highly touted ACC matchup and then left with all of the luck.
Behind a fiery offensive performance, the No. 4 Blue Devils downed No. 7 Notre Dame 15-7 Saturday afternoon at Arlotta Stadium in South Bend, Ind.
The matchup was the two teams' first meeting as ACC foes, but a sense of familiarity lingered on the field during the game. The programs have faced off against each other seven times since 2010 and twice in 2013, including a 12-11 Blue Devil win in the NCAA quarterfinals.
Saturday's win was Duke's sixth straight since back-to-back blowout loses to Maryland and Loyola.
“We’re playing really fundamental,” sophomore midfielder Deemer Class said. “Guys are working well shooting, playing with both hands, a lot of stuff we teach in the fall and just keep building as the season goes forward. We’re really buying into our system. The more we’re unselfish, the better the whole unit plays.”
Duke (10-2, 3-1 in the ACC) jumped out to a hot start in the first quarter, with attack Jordan Wolf scoring two goals and then finding Class for the team’s third goal to go ahead 3-1.
Notre Dame was able to get on the board when Nick Ossello scored his first of two goals on the afternoon. But the Fighting Irish struggled to find an offensive rhythm and were hampered by a slew of one-minute penalties that resulted in a number of man-up opportunities for the Blue Devils.
It looked as if Notre Dame (4-4, 2-2) finally found the offensive spark it needed to cut into the Duke lead when Conor Doyle slid the ball past Blue Devil goalie Luke Aaron in the opening minute of the third quarter to make the score 6-3. But Duke was determined not to let this one get too close.
The Blue Devil offense responded with six straight goals and held the Irish scoreless for the remainder of the quarter. Explosive plays helped lengthen the lead, as midfielder Will Haus took advantage of an overthrow, scooping up the ball and running the length of the field to score his fourth goal of the season.
Wolf added his 37th goal of the season with 9:54 to play in the third quarter, boosting the Duke lead to seven. The senior finished the day with four goals and three assists. Class led the Blue Devils on the afternoon with five goals on 10 shots.
Head coach John Danowski said that the play of Wolf and Class has been a major reason behind the offense’s success this season.
“What it does is it gives us a little bit of balance and we are able to stretch the defense a little bit from the perimeter,” Danowski said. "In the beginning of the year, we didn't have that ability to do that [and] now that we can stretch it a little bit, it keeps defenses honest. If they slide quickly, you can move the ball. Today also the film will show the kids were pretty unselfish as well.”
Although the Fighting Irish tallied four goals in the game’s final quarter, the Duke defense held the Notre Dame offense, which entered the game averaging more than 12 goals per game, to just seven goals on 34 shots on the day.
Aaron continued his breakout season in goal for Duke, and his five first-quarter saves were crucial to his team’s early advantage that endured throughout the game.
“Every team in the country will say ‘We want our goalie to make that first save,'” Danowski said. “We want him to make that first one so he feels good about his role and seeing the ball. We made a couple of saves early and we were able to get the ball out.”
The Blue Devils are heating up at just the right time with postseason play around the corner. But even though the team’s success over the last month evokes reminders of Duke’s 2013 championship run, Danowski thinks his team and coaching staff can look at some aspects of his team’s play before facing a number of high-profile teams in the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
“I hope we keep getting better,” he said. “I hope this isn't the ceiling. I think the fourth quarter [we let up]. The faceoff game we have to continue to look at. We know their kid Liam [O’Connor] is dynamite. We got worked in the fourth quarter in the faceoff game and we failed to clear a bunch of times. There is plenty of ammunition for the coaching staff to get better.”