Blue Devil men's lacrosse blow past Air Force in opening round of NCAA Championship
Chris Dieckhaus / Chronicle File Photo
Duke blew past the Falcons for a 20-9 victory in the opening round of the NCAA Championship. The Blue Devils, led by sophomore Myles Jones, used an explosive second quarter to pull away and secure their spot in the quarterfinals for the seventh year in a row.
“Today you saw a whole bunch of examples of the right play,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “Where we made the extra pass, where you could hear guys calling ‘one more.’ That means one more pass. There were a couple of times where we moved the ball three or four times and finished it on the back side in the second quarter because guys were playing right. They were playing together.”
The first period was played close but Duke managed to come out unscathed and spent the majority of the quarter—and the game—with the lead. Senior Jordan Wolf hit a close range shot to give Duke a 1-0 lead, an advantage it would not surrender for the remaining 59 minutes. Wolf would go on to finish with three goals.
But the Falcons kept things interesting, as it seemed as though they would be able to start the second quarter with a reasonable two-goal deficit. But senior attack Josh Dionne had other plans.
Dionne—who only played a quarter in last year's NCAA tournament—ended the first 15 minutes with a spectacular falling underhand shot with a second remaining to give the Blue Devils a 5-2 advantage entering the second quarter.
The second quarter proved to be the period of separation for Duke thanks to the fact that the ball rarely ventured into the Blue Devil half of the field. Duke outshot the Falcons 16-10 in the decisive second period of play, with the Blue Devils netting seven of those shots compared to Air Force's one.
“We are really confident in our offense,” sophomore attackman Case Matheis said. “When all our players are playing unselfish and playing Duke lacrosse, we are pretty confident in our players.”
Jones dominated the first half of play and ended the day with an impressive stat line. The 6-foot-4, 240-pound sophomore overpowered the Falcon defense with a commanding overhand shot and finished the day with three goals and five assists to lead all players with eight points.
"Myles is 240 pounds and there are not too many 240-pound midfielders in the country,” Danowski said. “He’s such a terrific athlete, has great stick skills and vision. You can see his basketball skills at play when he plays with his head up and he just continues to get better each week.”
Duke spread the love on offense, with eight Blue Devils finding the back of the net by the time the game concluded. Although the Air Force senior class provided a nice story entering the tournament—the Falcons won just one game in 2010 but improved to turn in an 11-win campaign this season—they could not compete with the depth Duke presented Sunday.
“All week we worked on dodging with our head up and got away from selfish play,” Jones said. “You can’t get 20 goals by yourself or with one or two guys. Getting everyone involved was awesome.”
Duke managed to pull away not just because of its depth and the efficiency with which it shot but also the quantity. The Blue Devils registered 50 shots and found success with 40 percent of their shots opposed to Air Force's 25 percent on 35 shots.
Duke will travel to Newark, Del., to take on Johns Hopkins May 18 at either noon or 2:30 p.m. The Blue Jays upset eighth-seeded Virginia 14-8 Sunday.