After sloppy play resulted in Duke's first loss of the season against No. 1 Maryland March 4, No. 3 Duke (3-1) will be looking to get back to basics when it takes on Holy Cross (0-2) today at 3 p.m in Koskinen Stadium.
In their first three games, the Blue Devils scored 49 goals. But against the Terrapins, they squandered numerous scoring opportunities. Duke's attack frequently gave away the ball on checks and poorly-aimed passes, ruining the Blue Devil transition game and preventing the team from building any momentum.
As a result, most of Monday's practice was focused on getting the team to concentrate on the little things that brought Duke to within a goal of the NCAA title last season.
"We're just getting back to basics, trying to get back to the fundamentals," Tony McDevitt said. "We're glad we have a game on Tuesday because we get to get rid of the sour taste of Maryland real quick."
The offense's lack of execution against Maryland was particularly troubling to Duke head coach Mike Pressler. The Blue Devils were only 8-for-19 on face-offs and had no scorers with more than two goals.
"We were disappointed with how we played offense in the game," Pressler said. "We've got away from the things that got us here. We've got to be able to dodge some short sticks and create, which we didn't do. We've got to make the second pass, which we didn't do. We've got to shoot the ball. It's nothing new, we're not reinventing the wheel here, we've just got to play better fundamentally."
The absence of attacker Dan Flannery, who was forced out of the Maryland game in the second quarter with an unspecified shoulder injury, will complicate things for Duke. Flannery has been one of the offensive standouts thus far this season, with a team high 16 points on 6 goals and 10 assists. His playing status for today's game, however, is unknown.
Even if Flannery does not play, the Holy Cross defense should not present a insurmountable challenge for the Blue Devils. The Crusaders have already given up a combined 30 goals in blowout losses to Fairfield and Hartford and will have trouble hanging with Duke for a full game.
"Why not run around with the best team in the country?" Holy Cross head coach Adam Pascal asked. "We have a very intelligent team, so we expect them to try to capitalize on an opportunity we might never get again. But I expect our kids to not back down because it is a great opportunity to compete against the top team."
The Blue Devils' defense is also working hard at increasing the intensity of its play, while avoiding the costly penalties that put the team at a disadvantage against the Terrapins. After giving up five goals and an assist to Xander Ritz, the unit will try to play a tougher style of lacrosse against the winless Crusaders.
"We need to become more physical overall as a team," McDevitt said. "Defensively, in the midfield, wherever it may be-we need to become more physical. That's the number one goal."
The only position on the field where Duke has no pressing needs for improvement has been in the cage, where Danny Loftus has performed beyond expectations. The junior recorded 20 saves against the Terrapins and helped keep the Blue Devils alive in the game.
"He's been our most consistent player over the last four games-I couldn't be more pleased with Danny Loftus," Pressler said. "It's surprised me to see how well he has played but it hasn't surprised me that he's played well."
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