Perched atop the bleachers at midfield in Koskinen Stadium Saturday afternoon, I took in my first lacrosse game as Duke beat Loyola 11-9 in a contest that featured four lead changes. With The Chronicle's staff undermanned over break, I was forced into action covering a sport in which my Texas roots failed miserably in providing adequate background exposure.
But as a sports fan, I entered the game excited about a matchup pitting two top-15 teams and left the stadium pleased with the combination of talented open-field play and physical confrontation that was on display.
Drawing comparisons between strategies used in other sports and occasionally gleaning information from the avid supporters sitting around me, I was able to make several distinct observations about this sport originally introduced by Native Americans.
- Penalties play a crucial role in the flow of the game, as five of the game's 20 goals were scored as one team played man-up. Particularly in the case of former Blue Devil Collin Finnerty's man-up goal at the beginning of the fourth frame that put Loyola up score, a careless penalty in the waning moments of the third quarter nearly cost Duke dearly.
- Just as in any other sport, ball control is crucial to a team's success in lacrosse, which was evident Saturday. Loyola jumped out to an early 2-0 lead taking advantage of the Blue Devils' sloppy early play. Then, in the game's final minutes, Duke was able to secure victory by playing keep away as the clock ticked away after Max Quinzani and
Steve Schoeffel had back-to-back scores to give Duke a multi-goal lead.
- There is a significant amount of judgment involved in officiating. My trouble in deciphering what type of plays would garner a whistle and which wouldn't can partially be attributed to my lack of familiarity with the rules. Still, the continual catcalls from both schools' faithful provided adequate support for the ambiguity of the refereeing.
- Overall, the strategy and game play reminded me the most of hockey. The physical nature of the play and the similarity of man-up sets to power plays were very hockey-like. Also, both teams made usage of the space behind the net
when setting up. Lastly, having players who can beat their man one-on-one and create a shot proved crucial as the Greyhounds' Shane Koppens proved as he kept Loyola in the game with three unassisted goals.
For the Blue Devils, senior Ned Crotty and Quinzani, a junior, paced the team with five and three points, respectively. Duke overcame a bit of a slow start and
pulled away to a secure the win in what was a hotly contested game that may have me back for tomorrow's matchup with Yale
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