After going undefeated at home for three of the last four years, Duke’s seniors ended their regular season careers with one final win on their home field.
Senior Jordan Wolf’s six goals and two assists propelled Duke to its eighth straight win, as the No. 2 Blue Devils easily downed Rutgers 17-8 Saturday afternoon, cementing a perfect 9-0 record at Koskinen Stadium this season.
“It solidifies that the bar is set by the great alumni before us. We try to protect our house,” senior attack Josh Dionne said. “People put so much blood, sweat and tears out there, for us to just take that for granted just would not be right. We really wanted to continue the legacy that they set.”
Duke (12-2) bolted out of the starting gate, with Wolf scoring two of his goals in first two minutes to give the Blue Devils an early 2-0 advantage. Both goals were made possible by Duke’s feisty defense, which forced turnovers that led to both of Wolf's goals. The defense harassed the Scarlet Knight attack all day, forcing 20 turnovers in the victory and allowing the Blue Devils to control the game.
Still, Duke head coach John Danowski said he would like to see improvement from his defense. He said that Rutgers had opportunities to execute a number of plays that could have swung the game a different way.
“We held some people out today and we got some other people a chance to play. Defensively we have to get better,” Danowski said. “There are some opportunities that they did not score on that they could have. We got extended at times and we need to communicate a lot better.”
The team, led by its seniors, would only add to the lead throughout the day. Dionne provided the spark for another offensive spurt, scoring two goals to give Duke a 6-2 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Although Rutgers added back-to-back goals from Scott Kilmchak and Connor Murphy to cut the deficit to three, Dionne, Wolf and sophomore midfield Myles Jones each managed to slide the ball between the poles to give the Blue Devils a 10-4 advantage at halftime.
Duke outshot the Scarlet Knights 51-30 and eight different players found the back of the net. The Blue Devil offense, ranked second nationally with 14.15 goals per contest, seems to have found its stride heading into the postseason.
“It takes a while for offense to develop, our spacing and understanding what people’s tendencies are,” Wolf said. “We are really starting to click. I have been playing with Josh [Dionne] and Christian Walsh forever, so it has been easy for us, but Deemer Class and Myles [Jones] are newer players. We all have to get used to each other.”
Duke continued to pile on the points in the second half, slowly pulling away from Rutgers behind three more goals from Wolf. Younger players got into the action as well, with Class—a sophomore—and freshman Jack Bruckner netting a goal each in the third quarter.
Class and Jones have filled a crucial void in the midfield that was left when a number of experienced seniors at the position were lost to graduation following last season's national championship run.
The wealth of game experience the team has gained this year has led to a combination of young and old, something that seems to be working well for the Blue Devils on the field.
“A lot of game experience, a lot of great opponents that we get to play week after week,” Danowski said. “For them it is a combination of young and old. [Dionne and Wolf] are two experienced players and we have some younger guys who are less experienced, but have some talent. They have a desire to want be the best they can be.”
Duke will need this experience heading into a crucial ACC tournament matchup with No. 3 Syracuse Friday afternoon. The Blue Devils downed the Orange 21-7 earlier in the season.
After losing back-to-back contests to Maryland and Loyola in March, the Blue Devils are hungry and poised to make a deep postseason run during the next month.
“[The losing streak] humbled us a little bit, but it made us more determined. Every single time we play, we want to play Maryland,” Dionne said. “I think they want to also, to prove it wasn’t a fluke. Our captains have done a great job of keeping us hungry. I don’t want to look past anybody but I want Maryland and I want Loyola.”