The hands of Jake Tripucka, David Lawson and Josh Offit were all over Duke's national championship run a season ago. Although the trio of All-Americans has departed from Durham, their impact on this year's championship bid is still tangible.
Sophomore midfielders Myles Jones and Deemer Class will lead top-seeded Duke against No. 8 Johns Hopkins Sunday at noon at Delaware Stadium in Newark, Del. A victory against the Blue Jays would send the Blue Devils to their eighth consecutive NCAA semifinal.
Jones and Class, who found themselves under the tutelage of Duke's elder statesmen as freshmen last season, have thrived in increased roles for the Blue Devils in 2014. Their consistent production stems from the lessons they learned watching Tripucka, Lawson and Offit.
"Last year [Myles and I] sat behind three All-Americans. We both played second line so we were just lucky in the sense that we got to play behind those guys [and] learn from them," Class said. "Every year guys have to fill in the roles of the guys graduating before them and we’ve just worked hard to do that."
That hard work has paid off, according to head coach John Danowski.
"We lost like four or five really good senior [midfielders from last year's team]," Danowski said. "They were four-year guys in our program, had terrific senior years all of them in all different roles. So we said, ‘Listen, Deemer and Myles, we think they have great potential but they’re still sophomores. Let’s not put too much on them because they’re still sophomores.’ Jake Tripucka and David Lawson had really nice sophomore years, but nothing like these guys.”
Class leads Duke's midfielders with 60 points on the season, and Jones has added 50 to help complement senior attack and Tewaaraton Award finalist Jordan Wolf. Duke (14-3) holds the advantage against Johns Hopkins (11-4) in most offensive categories, and will look to Wolf, Jones and Class to make sure that remains the case Sunday against a stingy Blue Jays defense that allows just 8.16 goals per game.
"They make you play to your weaknesses," Danowski said. "And certainly their faceoff game is very good as well."
Duke will counter at the faceoff X with 2013 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player Brendan Fowler. Thanks in large part to Fowler, the Blue Devils have won 58.6 percent of their faceoffs on the year.
Johns Hopkins—which is seeking its 10th national championship in program history—boasts a 12.13 goals per game average, led by a full stable of talented offensive players. Junior Wells Stanwick leads the way with 63 points on the season, and has good company in sophomore Ryan Brown and senior Brandon Benn, who have 39 goals each.
Ten players recorded points in the Blue Jays' 14-8 road win at Virginia in the tournament's opening round. Danowski cited Johns Hopkins' balance and unpredictability as things to be wary of Sunday.
"They’re similar to Syracuse in that they’ve got a lot of guys who are dangerous," Danowski said. "Last week they had two guys who were responsible for nine goals out of their 14. But they had 10 different guys get points. Any one of their guys is capable on a given day to get four. But all of them are capable of getting one."