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Duke men's lacrosse sneaks into NCAA tournament following 18-8 rout of Boston University

<p>Sophomore midfielder Brad Smith scored a career-high four goals in the Blue Devils' regular-season finale.</p>

Sophomore midfielder Brad Smith scored a career-high four goals in the Blue Devils' regular-season finale.

Heading into its final regular-season game after a deflating loss to Notre Dame in the ACC Tournament semifinals, the prevailing sentiment was that if Duke could not get past a scrappy Boston University team, it could miss the postseason for the first time in a decade.

The Blue Devils instead decided to erase all doubts with a commanding victory.

No. 6 Duke took down a tough 20th-ranked Terriers team 18-8 at a neutral site at Bethpage High School in Bethpage, N.Y., thanks to a big game from its first-line midfielders. Sophomore Brad Smith, freshman Kevin Quigley and junior attackman Justin Guterding combined to score 10 goals.

“I think we got to run a lot,” Guterding told GoDuke.com. “It clearly showed in transition that we were moving fast. We were up and down. Our athletes like to run, and last week we didn’t get to do that.”

The Blue Devils conceded the first goal for the third straight game before finding some answers. After a Cal Dearth goal put Boston University (12-5) up by one just more than three minutes into the game, Duke retaliated with a shot and score from Smith just 41 seconds later. Quigley—Smith's teammate on the starting midfield—put the Blue Devils up for the first time with an unassisted goal of his own a minute later.

The Terriers were not done contending with Duke, though. Two consecutive goals from Jack Wilson that came just 42 seconds apart gave Boston University a lead and showed its staying power against a tough nonconference opponent.

That staying power quickly evaporated, however.

Between the 4:42 mark in the first quarter and the 2:52 mark of the second, the Blue Devils (12-4) ripped off nine unanswered goals, finding shooters from all over the field and across different position groups. The run began with sophomore defender Cade Van Raaphorst streaking down the field in transition and finding the back of the net.

During that span, Guterding added his name to the scoresheet twice, Smith tallied two more as well to earn a hat trick in the first half and well-known offensive commodities like Jack Bruckner, Reilly Walsh, Mitch Russell and Joey Manown all scored a goal each, rifling the ball past beleaguered Terrier goalkeeper Christian Carson-Banister.

The offensive excellence was, as usual, propelled by a dominant 14-of-16 performance from senior Kyle Rowe at the faceoff X. Freshman Brian Smyth went 6-of-9 on the draw, and senior Teddy Henderson and junior Thomas Palisi went 1-of-2 and 2-of-2, respectively.

The two teams traded goals in the final 20 seconds of the half when Ryan Hillburn scored a man-up goal for Boston University, but Smyth answered just eight seconds later, taking the faceoff and streaking down the field after winning the draw before beating Carson-Banister in transition again. Duke would take a 12-4 lead into the break.

The Blue Devils iced the game immediately afterward, coming out firing to start the third quarter. After slowing down the pace from the torrid second period, Duke was content to get goals in the settled offense from Quigley, Manown and Smith. Smith’s four goals on five shots marked a remarkably efficient performance from a sophomore whose decision-making and shot selection have improved dramatically from his freshman campaign.

Taking a 15-6 lead into the fourth quarter, Duke had all but finished its opponent. That did not stop Guterding and fellow junior David Gill from adding to the scoring. Guterding was, true to form, the engine of the offense for the Blue Devils, as he completed the game with seven points coming on a hat trick and a critical four assists.

“I think [my development] is just a testament to the coaching staff,” Guterding said. “My freshman year, I was more of a goal-scorer because we had other guys that were dodging. Now I’ve turned to that older role, more of a leadership role on offense, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

After completing the regular season with 12 wins and a second-place finish in the ACC regular season standings, Duke received an unseeded designation from the NCAA tournament selection committee. According to the committee, the Blue Devils were the last team to make the field, illustrating how close a 10-year tournament run was to ending. 

Instead of calling it a year, however, Duke will try to get out of the first round of the tournament after two consecutive early exits. The Blue Devils take on the No. 6 seed Johns Hopkins at Homewood Field in Baltimore Saturday afternoon at 2:30. 

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