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Last-second heroics cap dramatic week

With his arms fully extended, Brad Ross caught Matt Danowski's pass right in front of the Virginia crease. From that position, Ross could only flick the ball backhanded towards the goal, and with the way Cavalier goalkeeper Kip Turner had played all day, that type of shot probably was not going to work.

So Ross did the only thing he could do-he flipped a shot over his left shoulder, past Turner's right leg and into the corner of the net. The goal, which came with 2:19 remaining in overtime, gave the fourth-ranked Blue Devils (10-2, 3-0 in the ACC) a 7-6 win over No. 2 Virginia (10-2, 2-1) and touched off a field-rushing celebration.

With the win, Duke clinched the ACC regular-season title and the top seed in the conference tournament April 27.

It was a triumphant close to an emotionally trying week-players saw their three former teammates facing sexual assault charges officially exonerated Wednesday and then had to take on the defending national champions Saturday.

"Around the world is the kind of thing you do when you're a little kid-you don't really practice that," said Ross, who finished the day with three goals. "It just kind of happens. It's instinct."

"I didn't see it," said Turner, who finished with 20 saves. "He wrapped it around his body and it went in the lower corner. What are you going to do?"

The overtime win was the Blue Devils' first in the careers of the team's seniors, and Ross said his game-winner was his first since he played in rec league. But the junior midfielder was not the first option on the play. Ross had set a screen to free Zack Greer-the team's leading scorer-and Danowski's first look was to the junior attackman.

But the Virginia defense slid over to lock down Greer, and Ross was able to slip toward the goal uncovered.

"We were a little soft inside, and so actually it's a goal that you might [have] thought we were a little bit vulnerable to- something just like that," Virginia head coach Dom Starsia said. "They just found the opportunity that the way we were defending probably offered up, and they took advantage of it."

That the Blue Devils were able to take advantage of that overtime opportunity at all seemed improbable through the first half. They started slowly, not scoring at all until just more than six minutes remained in the first quarter, and faced deficits of 3-1 in the second quarter and 5-3 in the third quarter.

"Today was actually the first time our emotions got the best of us," Danowski said. "We never really got into a flow.. We were too fired up. Now that we had proved everybody wrong in the court, we wanted to do it in the field again."

Head coach John Danowski echoed his son's sentiments and added that his team was mentally fatigued as a result of its long week.

"You try to pretend that this is not going to be difficult-you know, 'It's just a game, let's just play, it'll be business as usual'-but it wasn't business as usual," John Danowski said. "The kids were exhausted. You could see it.. I just thought our guys figured out a way to fight."

They fought by picking up 58 ground balls to Virginia's 38-defenseman Casey Carroll had a game-high seven-and by killing off a key penalty in the third quarter. For the game, the Blue Devils held Virginia scoreless on both of their man-advantage chances.

With 5:23 left in the third quarter, defenseman Tony McDevitt was sent off for a minute for an illegal body check. A goal by Virginia's Steve Giannone just one possession earlier had put the Blue Devils in a 5-3 hole, and another goal might have been psychologically crippling. But a stick-check by Casey Carroll caused the ball to fly out of bounds, giving possession to Duke and causing the 6,588 in attendance to erupt.

Just more than five minutes later, the Blue Devils tied the game at five on goals by sophomore Mike Catalino and Greer.

But Virginia was not done. Ben Rubeor's goal in transition put the Cavaliers up 6-5 with 8:48 to go.

Needing a goal to tie the score, the Blue Devils turned to star attackman Danowski. They ran a screen play for him, hoping to get a short-stick defender to switch onto him. The play was unsuccessful, but Danowski still rifled a low shot toward Turner's feet from the right side of the field. The shot hit Turner in the left foot and squeezed between his leg and the post, tying the score and setting the stage for Ross' overtime heroics.

"If I was a little bigger person, I might tell you I'm kind of happy for Duke at the end of a long week," Starsia said. "I think the distractions were there for both teams. One of the teams was going to lose today and I know it's been a hard week for Duke."


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