Neither a 25-minute rain delay nor Navy's typically stingy defense could slow down Duke Saturday night.
Under the lights in a muddy Koskinen Stadium, the No. 3 Blue Devils jumped all over the Midshipmen in the first half and never looked back. The result was a 10-0 lead at halftime, and an eventual 14-5 win for Duke over the Patriot League champions in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
After a scoreless first four minutes, Brad Ross put the Blue Devils on the board with a low, bouncing shot. Robert Rotanz scored with just under seven minutes to play in the first quarter to make it 2-0, and with that, the floodgates were open--though the rain mercifully held off the rest of the evening. Duke led 6-0 at the end of the period, and extended that lead to 10 by intermission.
“I’m at a loss for words,” head coach John Danowski said. “Nobody expects to go up 10-0 in the first round of playoffs, especially against Navy. I’m not so surprised at the 10, but certainly surprised by the zero."
Unlike in past years, in which Matt Danowski and Zack Greer might have dominated the box score in a game like this one, a total of 10 Blue Devils recorded points Saturday.
In Duke's 10-0 run to open the game, eight different Blue Devils got on the scoresheet, with only Ross and attackman Zach Howell scoring twice.
The Blue Devils' offense, though, was successful partly because of the team's stellar defensive display. Navy won nine of 12 faceoffs in the decisive first half, which would normally provide the Midshipmen with a tremendous advantage in time of possession. But Duke's midfield and defense forced turnover after turnover, leading to odd-man situations and transition opportunities in the offensive zone.
Junior Parker McKee exemplified that performance Saturday--he recovered 14 ground balls on his own, while the entire Navy squad recovered just 33 for the game. He and the rest of the defense harried Navy into errant passes all night, and were able to prevent the Midshipmen from getting point-blank chances in front of goal.
“I think we pack it in a lot more in the middle so guys aren't getting those open looks anymore in the middle right in front of the crease," McKee said. "The close defensemen are taking a lot of ownership of their men and not letting them get any looks."
With the win, the Blue Devils advance to the national quarterfinals, where they will meet No. 6 North Carolina for the third time this season. Duke defeated the Tar Heels during the regular season and again in the ACC tournament finals, and their final matchup of the year will take place next Sunday afternoon in Annapolis, Md.--ironically, on Navy's home field.
"The Duke-UNC rivalry is something that has been great, especially since I’ve been here, and it’s gotten even better this year as Coach Breschi has done a great job for them," ACC Player of the Year Ned Crotty said. "They’re playing their best lacrosse now, so we’re really excited to play them again."
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.