The No. 2 men's lacrosse team started its season on a high note Saturday, defeating the Butler Bulldogs by a final score of 20-3.
On a cold day and a wintry mix falling that contributed to 103 ground balls between the two teams, the Blue Devils (1-0) bested the Bulldogs (0-1) in almost every facet of the game.
"I don't really think that the conditions had much to do with the outcome certainly or the play," Duke head coach Mike Pressler said. "I thought our guys really reacted very well to them and that was evident in the first quarter score. It was a little colder, a little more inclement than we usually have enjoyed here in the last couple weeks, and certainly our guys were really happy to open the season."
Duke scored its first goal two minutes into the game on a shot from Matt Zash assisted by Kyle Dowd. The Blue Devils never looked back. The team scored the first seven goals of the contest and had already opened up a 9-1 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Butler scored its first goal with 1:58 remaining in the first quarter, but Dowd answered less than a minute later with a goal of his own. Dowd finished with four goals on the day to lead all scorers. Zash, Dan Flannery, and Zack Greer all had three goals apiece, while 10 Blue Devils finished with at least one.
Despite the prolific goal scoring, Pressler was more pleased with another important facet of the game-faceoffs.
"That's one of the key things, and I thought we did very well at that certainly in the second half," Pressler said. "I think we were 18-for-26 overall, but I would say the player that really stepped up was Dan Oppedisano, our junior faceoff guy. He was 9-for-11 with six grounders. You look at the goals by Dowd and Flannery and Zash and those guys, we kind of expect that from those fellas, but for Opped to go 9-of-11 that was a key for us."
Looking toward the rest of the season, Pressler stressed the importance of faceoffs for his team's prolific offense.
"One of our No. 1 objectives this year is to improve our faceoff percentage," Pressler said. "We were sub-50 percent a year ago at 48 and if we can get that up to the high 50s, maybe to 60 percent consistently, that's going to mean six, seven more possessions per game for what we think is a pretty good offense."
This year's Duke team returns nine starters from its national runner-up squad of a year ago, and it has nine preseason All-Americans on its roster. Last year's team finished with a Duke-record 17 wins and a perfect 3-0 ACC regular-season record before falling to Johns Hopkins in the national title game.
"Our guys were really hungry to get going," Pressler said. "It was eight months since they left Lincoln Financial Field, and when we walked off the field and lost the National Championship. It's no secret that the old phrase of 'finish unfinished business' is certainly in their minds."
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