The men's lacrosse team was finally able to raise its record above the .500 mark over spring break, but it still turned out to be a disappointing week because of an 11-9 defeat at the hands of seventh-ranked Brown on Saturday, March 9th at Loyola, Md. Despite the loss, the No. 10 Blue Devils were able to bounce back, crushing Canisius College 24-9 on Tuesday at Duke Lacrosse Stadium and then blowing out Navy 15-4 on Saturday to improve to 3-2 on the season.
"We were kind of down after the Brown loss," said sophomore John Fay. "But it's good to get some good wins and play well. That's the most important thing about the Canisius and Navy games, we needed to put together a strong performance and win."
After receiving a No. 5 preseason ranking, Duke was embarrassed by No. 4 Maryland in its season-opener. A victory over Brown would have shown that Duke was still worthy of being considered a national powerhouse, but instead the Blue Devils have yet to beat a top-10 opponent this season.
"We have a lot of room for improvement, especially against top-10 teams," said Fay. "We definitely needed a little time to get things going. Some of our freshmen have stepped up and really played well."
The game against Brown was strangely similar to the Maryland loss as Duke jumped out to a quick lead before falling apart in the second and third quarters offensively. With just 3:20 left in the first period, Duke had already grabbed a 4-1 lead, but Brown responded with six straight goals. The Blue Devils notched two goals before halftime to keep the game close, but Brown responded by outscoring Duke 2-0 in the third quarter for a 9-6 lead. Senior Clay Curtis and Fay scored goals to open up the final stanza and pull Duke back within one, but two goals within the next minute and a half by Brown put the game out of reach.
"We really don't know what the problem is," Fay said about Duke's mid-game scoring problem. "That's kind of a mystery to us. We obviously knew we had to work on that so we really concentrated on it [against Canisius and Navy]."
Duke came out sluggishly against Canisius, leading only 9-6 at halftime, but this time it controlled the third quarter blanking Canisius 10-0 on its way to the win. Freshman Scott Diggs scored two of his game-high six goals in the quarter to help the Blue Devils pull away.
"It's tough jumping in there as a freshman, but right now I feel great," said Diggs. "The team seems to be working great together."
The Blue Devils spread out the rest of their offensive firepower as Fay notched five goals and two assists, senior Scott Allen scored three goals and two assists, and freshman John O'Donnell and senior Bob Carpenter both tallied three goals.
Duke's defense did not let up after its performance against Canisius, allowing Navy only two goals in both the first and third period. Once again the Blue Devil offense waited until the second half to pull away. After leading 5-2 at the break, Duke used 10 second half goals to put Navy well out of reach. Fay came up with his second five-goal game while senior James Heavey added three and Diggs came up with two. Junior Jim Gonnella was the main distributor for the Blue Devils with four assists, running up his total to seven for the week.
"Of course the team wasn't too happy with the loss," Diggs said. "The wins were important. Overall the morale on the team is much better than it was earlier this week.
"We may have lost a few guys, but we still have some great players and good leaders."
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The wins over Canisius and Navy give Duke crucial momentum as it prepares for Tuesday's game against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. UNC is currently 5-1 and ranked No. 4 in the nation. Duke is desperately looking for a big win as a loss to Carolina would give Duke an 0-2 start in the Atlantic Coast Conference with only No. 1 Virginia remaining on the schedule.