The independent news organization of Duke University


Today the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country will play each other in Baltimore, Md.

That’s all that matters—at least that is what the No. 2 Blue Devils (11-0) would like to believe.

They will ignore the national television audience and the thousands of fans that will pack Homewood Field. They will not care that Johns Hopkins is the only other remaining undefeated team in the nation. They will refuse to be intimidated by one of the greatest programs in collegiate lacrosse—one that has won 31 straight home games.

Sound crazy? It probably is, but it is the only mindset Duke can have if it expects to beat the No. 1 Blue Jays (7-0).

“I don’t think anyone’s over-thinking about this game,” sophomore Nick O’Hara maintained. “It’s just another game for us. If we win, we’ll be happy, but it’s not the biggest game of the year. There are better games to come.”

Judging from the expected size of tonight’s crowd, however, this will be unlike any game this team has played, especially for the freshmen and sophomores who have never played at Homewood.

“The unfortunate thing is that there’s another game Friday night—Maryland against Navy—which is a big local rivalry,” said Johns Hopkins head coach Dave Pietramala, a member of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. “But I think with all the success that Duke has had, and us having a good season, there’s going to be an awfully nice crowd here. We can expect anywhere from 7,000 to 10,000 people.”

This is not to say that there aren’t plenty of reasons why the roles should be reversed and the Blue Jays should fear the Blue Devils. Last week, Duke victimized the Mount St. Mary’s and Ohio State defenses to the tune of 21 goals apiece. The weekend before that, it blew out No. 5 Georgetown by a 12-3 margin.

“What really impresses me about them are two things,” Pietramala said. “One, they’re playing with great energy. They play with great effort and energy, they fly around the ball, they hustle to the hole and they hustle to the loose ball.

“The other thing is that I think they’ve done a very good job of creating scramble situations on transition. They’re very good off the ground. Their transition game is one of the better ones out there.”

For the Blue Devils the key to the game will be controlling Johns Hopkins’ midfield.

“[Kyle] Harrison, [Paul] Rabil and Greg Peyser are the three leading scorers, which is very unusual,” Pressler said. “We’ve got our hands full with that first midfield—that is by far their strength.”

It was unanimous where the game will be most likely be decided tomorrow:

“I would say the Faceoff X,” O’Hara said.

“A lot depends on the performance at the Faceoff X for each team,” Pietramala said.

“It’s very obvious for us,” Pressler said. “We have to get 50 percent of the faceoffs. We win our share of faceoffs, I truly believe we’re going to get some good opportunities to score. Hopkins is by far the best faceoff team we’ll face all year. That’s the key to victory for us.”

Duke faceoff men Brad Ross and Dan Oppedisano will have their work cut out for them. The Blue Jays have lost the battle in the faceoff circle only once this season.

Much remains a mystery when it comes to predicting how the Blue Devils will perform tonight. Even Pressler admits that he does not know how his relatively young team will react.

“Number one, you look at our track record this year: we’ve won three big games, all on the road,” he said. “Our guys have great confidence about playing well on the road. Number two, Hopkins has certainly been in these environments a little more than us. A No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Baltimore at Hopkins on national TV. With all the hype, if we’re not mature about all that, that could work against us.”


Share and discuss “NATION'S TOP TEAMS FACE OFF IN BALTIMORE” on social media.