Duke prepares for high-octane foe

CJ Costabile and the Blue Devil defense will have their hands full against Peter Baum, who led the NCAA in points.
CJ Costabile and the Blue Devil defense will have their hands full against Peter Baum, who led the NCAA in points.

The Blue Devils may be the seeded team in their NCAA tournament quarterfinal matchup against Colgate, but facing one of the nation’s hottest teams can make it feel otherwise.

Taking on a foe that has won 12 of its last 14 games, No. 3 seed Duke (14-4) will face the Raiders (14-3) Sunday at PPL Park in Philadelphia with a trip to championship weekend on the line. Colgate knocked off sixth-seeded Massachusetts 13-11 on the road in the first round, handing the Minutemen their first defeat of the season.

“We feel like we’re going into this game as an underdog,” head coach John Danowski said. “Colgate will be fired up, they will be excited, and they will be extremely confident going into Sunday.”

To advance to Foxboro, Mass., home to this year’s semifinal and championship rounds, Duke must stifle one of the most dangerous offensive units in the nation. The Raiders rank second in scoring offense with 13.5 goals per game, led by Tewaaraton Award finalist Peter Baum. The junior from Portland, Ore. leads Division I in points with 96, notching 66 goals and 30 assists this season. The Tewaaraton Award is given annually to the nation’s top male and female lacrosse players, with Duke defender CJ Costabile, a senior, also among the five finalists.

“[Baum is] extremely quick and can shoot it on the run,” Danowski said. “When you can do that, it makes a player very dangerous. We’re playing a little more with our first-team offense against our first-team defense in practice to simulate [Colgate’s] quickness.”

Baum tallied two goals and added an assist in Colgate’s first round victory over Massachusetts. With Duke’s defense keyed on Baum, who broke Patriot League records in both points and goals this season, the Raiders may have to rely on their supporting cast. Ryan Walsh and Jeff Ledwick have often answered this call, scoring 35 and 32 goals this season, respectively.

“The hope is we can play for 60 minutes and figure out a way to defend their team,” Danowski said. “We’re going to try and play team defense and win individual matchups.”

To take the ball out of Colgate’s hands, the Blue Devils aim to replicate their success in faceoffs from their first round 12-9 victory against Syracuse. Duke made an adjustment against the Orange, removing Costabile from the faceoff spot and putting him on the wing. The move paid dividends, as Brendan Fowler and Greg DeLuca combined to win 17 of the contest’s 24 draws.

“If you win faceoffs and maintain ball possession, that’s a great way to keep it out of a great player’s hands,” Danowski said. “If we can hold our own on the draw and be 50 percent or better, that would be huge for us. We can stop momentum if they score a couple of goals or keep momentum on our side if we score a couple of goals.”

Duke is seeking its sixth consecutive trip to the national semifinals under head coach John Danowski, who has taken his team to the tournament’s final weekend every year he has been at the helm. The Raiders, by contrast, just earned their first-ever NCAA tournament victory last weekend.


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