During a hot start to the season, the Blue Devils have looked dominant at all points on the field.
And even against a team led by one of Duke head coach John Danowski’s current Team USA players, the Blue Devils showed no signs of slowing down.
No. 1 Duke took down Jacksonville 19-8 Saturday afternoon at home in Koskinen Stadium, two days after an 18-6 victory against High Point. The Blue Devils held the tempo of the game with an iron grip, mounting an early lead and never letting the Dolphins come within four. With four players earning hat tricks Saturday and Duke scoring more than 18 goals in each of its first three games, the Blue Devils showed off an offense that will be a force to be reckoned with against any team in the nation.
Although Jacksonville head coach John Galloway is an active Team USA player and spent a year as a volunteer assistant under Danowski, his team did not have the talent to keep up with the top team in the nation.
“The hope is that down the road, in preparation for an ACC tournament where you have to play Friday and Sunday, that’s why we schedule these games early in the year—to test ourselves and see if it’s something we’re capable of doing,” Danowski said. “Overall, we were really delighted with our preparation during the week and how our guys responded today.”
Duke (3-0) opened the first quarter as a force of nature, putting up 14 shots to just three from the Dolphins in the period. Senior Sean Cerrone was the first to put the Blue Devils on the board. Playing off a turnover, the midfielder smashed right through Jacksonville’s back line and found the back of the net off a solo surge. Less than 30 seconds later, sophomore Kevin Quigley followed up a faceoff win to find the back of the net, putting Duke up by two early. Quigley went on to post a hat trick with three goals, quadrupling his season total.
After Cerrone and Quigley set the tone with their explosive plays, Duke notched three more goals in the quarter without a response from the Dolphins (1-1). Quigley scored one more, and senior Justin Guterding contributed back-to-back fast-break goals, capitalizing on turnovers from Jacksonville.
Although Duke built up a hefty lead heading into the second quarter, the Dolphins found another gear in them to keep the Blue Devils in check for a period.
Bursting out the gates with a level of energy Duke had not seen all afternoon, the Dolphins’ Gavin Legg cut through the Blue Devils’ defense and played off a pass from Shawn Ewert to finally put his team on the board. Duke responded just a minute later, with Joe Robertson barreling through Jacksonville’s back line. The Charlottesville, Va., native found an open teammate in junior Sean Lowrie, who put the goal away.
The rest of the quarter was a vicious back-and-forth between the two teams, with Jacksonville’s Eric Applegate contributing two goals to try and cut into the Blue Devils’ momentum. But Duke remained undeterred with its attacking trio of Guterding, Robertson and sophomore Joey Manown penetrating deep into Jacksonville territory and finding three more goals for the Blue Devils. The Dolphins added a man-up goal late in the quarter, but still trudged into halftime facing a 9-4 deficit despite outshooting Duke 11-7 in the second quarter.
“We had our game plan the whole time,” Robertson said. “At the end of the second quarter, we started moving too fast and got ahead of ourselves a little bit. We came [into the locker room], calmed it down a little bit and got out fighting.”
Coming out of the half, the Blue Devils were in control for the rest of the game. Guterding, Lowrie and Robertson took the reins for a 5-1 Duke surge in the third quarter. Although Jacksonville found four more goals by the end of the game, the outcome was never in question. Guterding finished with four goals and five assists, while Robertson contributed three goals and five assists.
“[With Guterding and Robertson] you have a dominant right-hand player and a dominant left-hand player down low,” Danowski said. “They don’t come off the field, so by the time they get together, they will develop some chemistry together.”
With a team that picked up 42 ground balls to 30 from Jacksonville and forced 26 turnovers by the Dolphins, the Blue Devils won by making deep attacks and dominating possession of the ball. But with just 12-of-30 faceoffs won, Duke will need to beware of giving early possessions to more talented teams after the graduation of reliable faceoff man Kyle Rowe last spring.
The Blue Devils will return to action Friday at home against No. 4 Denver, when Duke will face its first top-10 test of the season.
“We need to celebrate this win a little bit—two games in three days,” Danowski said. “Second would be to just take the day off and let everybody get some rest and relax. Then on Monday, we get back to work.... Denver is a team we’ve struggled with in the regular season since 2014.”
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