Here are some things to watch for in today's contest:
- Ned Crotty and Max Quinzani vs. Ryan Nizolek and Ken Clausen: Former Virginia All-American Brett Hughes has called this the best matchup of the tournament over at ESPN, and he may be right. Quinzani, who has 14 games where he's scored three or more goals, and Crotty, who set a Duke single-season assist mark this year, make up, along with Zach Howell, a formidable first line of attackers. Crotty and Quinzani have a combined 159 points between the two of them this year—and it's not much of a stretch to say they may be the best offensive duo in the country this year. Attempting to stop them will be the Cavaliers' Ryan Nizolek and Ken Clausen. Clausen, who recently won the William C. Schmeisser award this week (for the nation's top defender) is a fierce and athletic player, who causes 2.18 turnovers a game and has picked up 52 ground balls for Virginia. Nizolek has 27 ground balls on the year, and is a similarly talented defender. Will offense beat defense today? The classic question will be answered.
- Problems in the goal? No word yet who will start at goalie for Duke, but head coach John Danowski may have a tough decision on his hands. Junior Mike Rock got the starting nod against North Carolina last week, but he proved ineffective and was pulled in favor of freshman Dan Wigrizer before the end of the first half. Wigrizer, who has started 14 of the Blue Devils' 17 games, holds a 9.47 goals against average and an impressive .520 save percentage, but he struggled with long-rage shots against the Tar Heels, and he gave up 16 goals to the Cavaliers during the two teams' last meeting in the ACC Tournament.
- Defensive mindset from Duke: In an interview this week, Quinzani pinpointed Duke's mentality towards ground balls as one of the most important parts of today's game: "[North Carolina] is a very athletic team. Virginia is similarly athletic, so we gotta scrap, get ground balls. finish in front and know that we're going to have a really tough road ahead," he said. Many experts are calling the Cavaliers the more athletic team in this contest, and the ability for the Blue Devils to win these little battles on the defensive end may make all the difference when the final buzzer sounds. Keep an eye on which team comes out on top in this category.
- Who has the momentum? Short answer: Duke. Long answer: Does it matter? Yes, the Blue Devils are playing their best lacrosse of the season right now. After losing to Virginia in the ACC Tournament final, Duke has three blowout wins—19-7 against Sacred Heart, 18-5 against Johns Hopkins and 17-9 over North Carolina. But, then again, the Cavaliers have proven themselves seemingly immune from distractions so far in the season. They did barely beat Stoney Brook, winning by only one goal in the quarterfinals, but if there exists a team that doesn't let outside forces distract it, it's Virginia. Time will tell if Duke's momentum changes the Cavaliers' game plan in any way.
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