Attack tandem lights up Duke's foes

Early in the third quarter of Duke's 11-9 victory over Johns Hopkins Saturday, attackman Matt Danowski lofted a cross-field prayer to fellow forward Zach Greer that seemed to have little chance of being caught.

Even though he did not see the pass initially, Greer turned his head at the last moment, caught the ball and buried a shot in the back of the cage for his fifth goal and Danowski's third assist of the game.

"You could tell Zach didn't even expect it coming," midfielder Peter Lamade said. "It was one of those things where we were like 'Holy s-!' We were sitting on the sidelines like, 'Did that just happen?'"

Those types of plays have been a staple for Danowski and Greer throughout the three seasons they have played together, as the two have exhibited a unique chemistry since Greer first donned a Blue Devil uniform.

"It's always been unspoken between us, but ever since he came... we just kind of clicked," Danowski said. "I feel like when I'm going to a certain spot on the field I know where he's going to be, so I don't have to look half of the time. I think [senior] Mike Ward said to me when we were sophomores, 'You guys just know where each other are,' and that's just how it is."

In his freshman season, Danowski scored just 23 goals and tallied 19 assists as the Blue Devils limped to a 5-8 record.

"Sometimes you could tell he was frustrated," Lamade said of Danowski that season. "Sometimes he would throw balls to people who sometimes wouldn't catch them."

Greer's arrival changed all of that.

The players' styles complemented each other immediately. Greer, a left-handed stick who had developed strong off-ball shooting while playing in Canada, eased the defensive pressure on Danowski-a righty slasher with the speed to dodge defenders and make pinpoint passes.

In their first season together, Greer, then a freshman, and Danowski, then a sophomore, led Duke to the 2005 national title game-scoring 57 and 50 goals, respectively, while Danowski's assist total jumped to 42.

Their success has continued this season, as the tandem's 59 goals ranks second in scoring behind Virginia attackmen Ben Rubeor and Danny Glading with 61.

"I don't think any team so far has exactly figured out how to play the two of them," Lamade said. "One guy will blow up one day with a lot of goals, Zach will blow up and then Dino will blow up, and I don't think any team will figure out exactly how to stop them."

Teams have certainly tried, throwing a wide range of defensive sets at the Blue Devil attack in an attempt to stem the scoring. Head coach John Danowski said some teams try to put a short stick on Greer, as dodging defenders is not one of his strengths.

But the coach said that when teams have done that and not slid from Greer to double Matt Danowski, the senior co-captain has had big games, as was the case at Maryland when the younger Danowski scored six goals.

Conversely, when teams have opted to slide a defender off Greer to slow Danowski, Greer has exploded for big games. In Saturday's contest against Hopkins, the Blue Jay defense pushed out on Danowski and slid from Greer, a tactic that resulted in six goals for the junior.

"Teams have got to decide," John Danowski said. "They can beat you in a couple ways, and as our other players get better around them and get more experience and get more confidence...I think you're going to see our production go up."

But right now, Danowski and Greer are doing fine on their own, scoring 45 percent of Duke's goals and tallying 54 percent of the assists as Duke has posted a 9-2 record.

"I think Virginia has a great attack in different ways," Lamade said. "But I think Zach and Dino, with their experience and their skills, [are] probably the best tandem in the country."


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