The Blue Devils have been bounced from the NCAA tournament in the first round the last two years, but Sunday they showed the gap between a perennial contender and fledgling program.
No. 10 Duke dispatched Cleveland State 22-7 Sunday afternoon to cap off a successful home weekend doubleheader at Koskinen Stadium. Junior attack Justin Guterding scored racked up 10 points with four goals and six assists to pace the Duke offense, and sophomore goalkeeper Turner Uppgren took advantage of his opportunities in the second half, leading the defense effectively and logging six saves. The Vikings were overmatched in their first road game as a first-year program, with Guterding and senior attackman Jack Bruckner shredding their defense.
Bruckner tallied five goals and an assist Sunday to raise his career total to 106 points, and Guterding’s 10 points matched a career-high and were one shy of a program record.
“We are such a young team, we needed to get that in-game experience and we got that,” Blue Devil head coach John Danowski said. “That has been the biggest thing in the last eight days. We are a long way away in every department. It takes a while for guys to understand what a game is like. Practice is so compartmentalized it’s hard to simulate in-game experience, and our guys did a really good job in getting better each time out [this weekend]. I think we are a little better today than we were Friday night.”
Duke (2-1) jumped out to a 9-3 lead in the second quarter behind quick goals from Bruckner, Guterding, sophomore Brad Smith and freshman Kevin Quigley. Smith, a Mountain Lakes, N.J., native, exploded on offense for three goals and an assist after struggling in the first two games of the season. The Vikings (0-2) were threatening after tallying three straight goals late in the first half, but behind goals from Bruckner, Guterding and John Prendergast, the Blue Devils stopped the Cleveland State rally before the half and took a 12-6 lead into the locker room.
Duke came out of intermission firing on all cylinders, scoring nine goals in a row to blow the game wide open. Eight different Blue Devils found the back of the net in the second half, illustrating Duke’s immense young talent. Rookies Ryan Hastings and Reilly Walsh got into the scoring column for the first time ever, and Uppgren was able to garner more experience between the pipes after playing extensively for the first time Friday against High Point in relief of senior starter Danny Fowler.
“Turner played Friday night against High Point and he did a nice job, although he didn’t see any shots,” Danowski said. “They only took one shot, but today he had six saves. [We are] really happy with Turner’s growth and for him to get the opportunity for some playing time.”
Uppgren and Fowler did a good job communicating effectively on defense and limiting Viking scoring opportunities. Cleveland State only had 17 shots on goal, and veteran defenders Brian Dunne and Tommy Zenker were big reasons why.
“It makes it a lot easier when [Dunne and Zenker] are talking,” Uppgren said. “I think right now, we are all on the same page, we trust in our system. I think the more we talk, the better we are going to be. We were 5-for-5 [on man-up opportunities] today, so that is big for us. Right now, we just have to get better for this weekend’s game.”
The Vikings were led on offense by freshman Danny Tesler. The Acworth, Ga., native scored two goals and contributed a game-high eight ground balls.
Tesler was 14-of-23 at the faceoff X, helping the Vikings stay in the game when it was clear Duke’s firepower was too much for the Viking defense. Goalkeeper Caleb Espinoza made eight saves, including several impressive kick saves in transition, but Cleveland State’s inexperience showed across the board.
“They had 30-something freshmen out there, and they played with a lot of enthusiasm,” Danowski said. “We want to support [head coach Dylan] Sheridan and his program as much as we can because we want to support new men’s Division I programs. For our sport to grow, we need the Cleveland States of the world to be successful.”
Duke will next face a stiff test at No. 3 Denver Saturday at 2 p.m.
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