Blue Devils find cage in victory over Hoyas

It's a lot easier to win when your shots go in.

And for Duke, finding the back of the cage early in the game was all it took to resume its winning ways as the No. 8 Blue Devils defeated No. 19 Georgetown 9-5 Saturday in Koskinen Stadium.

After the Hoyas (2-4) drew first blood, Duke responded with five consecutive goals to take a 5-1 lead, led by a hat trick from junior Max Quinzani, who scored his three goals on three shots.

"That made me feel a lot more confident," Quinzani said. "Once I start [scoring], it takes all the pressure off of all the other guys and they can start hitting their shots. We were just really casual today. We had confidence."

The Blue Devils' early efficiency-they converted on 5-of-13 shots in the opening half-stood in stark contrast to their shooting woes of the past two games. In the first half of its matches against North Carolina and Cornell, Duke managed just six goals on 42 tries.

But the Blue Devils (7-3) needed every one of their goals to fend off a furious Georgetown rally.

The Hoyas attacked Duke with a unique riding scheme that defenseman Ryan McFadyen said the team hadn't seen all year, and it worked, as they were able to pressure the Blue Devils into turning the ball over on clears.

With 19 seconds remaining in the second quarter, Georgetown capitalized on a failed clear as junior Andrew Brancaccio scored to end a 27-minute scoring drought and pull the Hoyas to within three. On the ensuing possession, they won the faceoff and scored immediately to cut a potential four-goal halftime lead to two and deflate whatever momentum Duke had previously generated.

"The first thing we talked about [at halftime] was, we've got to figure out how to clear the ball because if we don't figure that out, it's going to be a long day," head coach John Danowski said. "[Georgetown] prepared for our clear on tape, so then we needed to adjust to that almost on the fly and it's almost like we don't have enough experience to adjust to that on the fly."

The Blue Devils' inexperience showed as they struggled out of the gate in the third quarter, allowing two additional goals. But the defense-perhaps in response to a midweek, midnight meeting-came together in the nick of time and didn't surrender another score.

"We mixed our defensive systems today," McFadyen said. "We had good contributions from everybody, made sure we protected the paint, and anytime we could get on their gloves, we did. We didn't want to let them get comfortable or settled."

And the defense's ability to hold the Hoyas gave the offense another opportunity to close out the match.

With the game knotted at five, Duke tightened up its passing and found open men close to the cage, scoring twice in 21 seconds on easy strikes from Mike Catalino and Zach Howell to reopen a two-goal advantage. The Blue Devils also won the fourth quarter 2-0, including a man-down breakaway goal by Will McKee to put the game away for good.

"We hit some shots early... and I think our team relaxed a little bit," Danowski said. "I was very proud of the way the guys hung in there and kept their poise, where I thought, against Cornell, we lost our poise a little bit in that fourth quarter. Today we kept our poise."

"When they tied it, we responded," Quinzani said. "That's basically a function of [Sam] Payton at the X and guys just still being confident. We had a lot less shots than in previous games but just cashed in a lot more times."


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