Duke kicked off its seventh straight Final Four appearance with media availability Thursday at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field. Head coach John Danowski and his team look to reach the finals for the first time since their 2010 national championship, but first must defeat offensive powerhouse Cornell. The Blue Devils (14-5) square off against the Big Red (14-3) Saturday at 2:30 p.m., but first Duke's players and coaches had a chance to talk about their matchup:
Danowski on making it to championship weekend for an NCAA-record seventh straight year:
"You really don’t think about the other years. You just think abut this year and how it’s really exciting for this particular group of young men. When we were 2-4 in late February, this was not even a discussion. It was about showing up to work every day and living one day at a time, which is really not a bad way to live."
Danowski on the evolution of his team:
"We weren’t really good early in the year. We were playing some dynamite opponents, so certainly they were better than us, but we practiced well. Even though we were losing, we were still practicing well. We gave some great effort and the hope was eventually that things would fall into place. And that’s the beauty of sports—you can never be sure."
Danowski on Cornell attack Rob Pannell, a four-time All-American and finalist for the Tewaaraton Trophy:
"What happens is that sometimes everyone focuses on the star player, but you don’t get 53 assists if your teammates don’t catch the ball and put it in the back of the goal. It’s always a team effort. People have to get out of that star player’s way, they have to catch the ball from him and set him up and work with him, so [Cornell] is a lot more than just a star. And the danger in playing teams who have big players is falling into that trap."
Danowski on how Duke can reach the championship game, against either Denver or Syracuse:
"You have to be yourself. At this time of year, you’ve been practicing since September so if you decide you have to change things that’s probably not going to be successful. You have to be you. You have to come out here and be relaxed. The hope is that during these last Final Fours the guys have gained some experience so they wont be overwhelmed. Last week we played in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis so perhaps we won’t be overwhelmed [in Lincoln Financial Field] and just be ourselves."
Junior faceoff specialist Brendan Fowler on being only 12 victories away from holding the NCAA single-season record for faceoff wins:
"The only thing on my mind this weekend is winning. It would be cool to get the record, but really our main focus is winning this game and getting to Monday."
Fowler on reaching his third Final Four in as many years on the team:
"It’s pretty cool. I actually had a broken collarbone last year so I didn’t get a chance to play, but I’m really happy and excited to be back here and play again. [Cornell] has a really good faceoff team. It’ll be a scrappy game."
Senior midfielder David Lawson on being named first-team All-America Thursday morning:
"It’s an honor and I’m really excited about it. But our focus this weekend is winning and [the other six All-Americans and I] will enjoy all that in a couple of days."
Lawson on his offensive approach after scoring a career-high five goals in the quarterfinals against Notre Dame:
"I’m going to take the confidence I got from scoring those goals and bring it to this game. I’ll keep shooting and play confidently. I’m going to do whatever it takes. Whether they slide to me and I have to move the ball or whether I get a bunch of shots again, it really depends how they play me, but I’m going to do whatever it takes."
Goaltender Dan Wigrizer on not being able to play during his fourth Final Four weekend to close out his senior season:
"There are two sides to it. It’s very tough not being able to participate in the actual game in front of everybody in Philadelphia, but this week I still got the feeling if being part of the team and still get the essence of being able to help out the goalies and help out [starting goaltender] Kyle [Turri]. This week I put in a ton of work to help scout Cornell and help Kyle out so I still feel very much a part of it. While I’d like to be out there, Kyle’s an unbelievable goalie."
Wigrizer on being a Philadelphia native playing at home to end his lacrosse career:
"This is my fourth straight Final Four in the city where I grew up playing lacrosse—I could not ask for a better way to end my career. To be home and to potentially win a championship in front of the home crowd and the people that taught me to play lacrosse, the people who have been supportive of me since fifteen years ago when I started playing—being able to finish in front of them is the best experience I could possibly dream of."
Sophomore goaltender Kyle Turri on his first Final Four as a starter:
"It’s pretty exciting. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be an awesome game. Just the amount of work we’ve put in to get here a seventh time is incredible and hopefully this year we’ll have a better result. We’re just going to play our game defensively and be really aggressive."
Freshman attack Case Matheis on Duke's game plan:
"We just have to do what we do in practices, which is just making the right choices, getting involved with good passes, and listening to what our coach teaches us. If we do that, we should be fine."
Freshman midfielder Myles Jones on his first Final Four:
"For previous Final Fours, I’ve been sitting on the couch watching the game. It’s cool to just be on the field and have the next generation of lacrosse players watching us play now. It’s a great feeling."
Jones on Duke's offensive approach:
"Our game plan usually works every week in and week out so we stick to it. We need to execute well and execute the opportunities [Cornell] provides for us. If we capitalize, we’ll be in good shape."
Cornell attack Rob Pannell on facing Duke’s defense:
"We don’t really have any specific approach for Duke. We’ve been successful these last couple of weeks in playing within our system and trusting the guys around us in the field. Duke’s very athletic defensively, but if we can maintain the offense we’ve been playing these last couple of weeks and create scoring opportunities we can find success."
Pannell on being eight points away from breaking the NCAA all-time points record, which is currently held by Duke assistant coach Matt Danowski:
"The most important thing is getting the win, but everyone’s asking about the record so I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t on my mind. I think it’s pretty unique that Matt Danowski would be on the sideline coaching [if I were to break it against Duke]. Nobody wants their record broken. During the game it’s not going to be on my mind at all—the most important thing is to win the game—but it would be pretty special to break the record."
Cornell goaltender A.J. Fiore on Duke's offense:
"We’ve watched a lot of film on them—they’re probably one of the most athletic offenses we’ve faced all season. We just have to stick to our game plan. We have to play confidently and really communicate with each other and we’ll be fine. I think Duke brings a lot to the table—they have a lot of midfield lines they can run consistently, but as long as we play our game we’ll be alright."
Cornell faceoff specialist Doug Tesoriero on facing Fowler:
"I’ve never gone against Fowler before but he’s doing great. He’s a first-team All-American so congratulations to him, and he’s another Long Island boy so it's good to see Long Island kids having success at the faceoff X. I’m excited to go against him, we matchup well and it’ll be an exciting game tomorrow."
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