ANNAPOLIS, Md.—Johns Hopkins entered Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium Sunday afternoon looking to flip the script after suffering a 19-6 loss to Duke in the NCAA tournament last season—part of a three-game skid against their longtime rival.
Despite a frantic late push from the Blue Jays, however, it was once again the Blue Devils who came out on top.
Fourth-seeded Duke took down No. 5 seed Johns Hopkins 14-9 in the NCAA quarterfinals to advance to the Final Four for the first time since winning the 2014 national championship. Senior Justin Guterding had a hat trick and added two assists to bring his career goal total to 207 and season points tally to 104, eclipsing a pair of impressive marks: Zack Greer’s all-time NCAA record for career goals and Jordan Wolf’s program record for points in a season.
The Blue Jays struggled to solve Duke’s defense for much of the game, but finally began to go on a run in the second half, coming within a goal of tying a contest in which the Blue Devils never trailed. Freshman Nakeie Montgomery’s late pair of goals, though, helped spark a late Duke run to stop the bleeding and send the Blue Devils back to championship weekend, the first for this year’s senior class.
“You come to a school like Duke to make it to championship weekend,” senior goalkeeper Danny Fowler said. “Being a guy who’s played here every year since [2014,] I feel like we were handed off a program that it was kind of our job to keep at a high level. So this feels really good to punch a ticket to Boston.”
The Blue Devils (15-3) got off to a quick start in the first half, scoring less than two minutes into the contest on a clean feed by Guterding to freshman Joe Robertson just outside the crease—the rookie’s 42nd goal this season. On Duke’s ensuing possession, Robertson fired a shot off the post that ricocheted directly to sophomore Joey Manown, who put it away to hand the Blue Devils an early 2-0 lead.
Johns Hopkins recovered somewhat to start the second quarter and cut Duke’s lead to a pair on an extra-man goal early in the period after John Prendergast was sent to the sideline for an illegal body check. However, Prendergast made amends for his penalty after the following faceoff, cutting across the net fifteen yards out and beating Blue Jays goalkeeper Brock Turnbaugh down low to extend the lead back to three.
Johns Hopkins continued to chip away at the Blue Devils’ lead, but Duke’s offense had the answer at every turn. By the end of the opening half, the Blue Devils had extended their lead to four after a pair of unassisted goals from Brian Smyth and Reilly Walsh.
Although Smyth’s goal—an unassisted breakaway off the faceoff straight to the goal—was impressive, his 18-for-25 performance on faceoffs was critical to Duke's success.
“It is my belief that you don’t advance with your star players. It’s great when they play well, but the lacrosse plays that are available to you, guys have to make,” Blue Devil head coach John Danowski said. “This is the ultimate team sport. Everyone has got to be able to make plays this time of year.”
After carrying a relatively comfortable advantage into the break, the real drama ensued. For a while, defense was the name of the game, as each team endured 18 minute-plus scoreless streaks in the middle part of the contest.
Still, the Blue Jays (12-5) couldn’t be contained forever, and with just fewer than five minutes left in the quarter, Connor DeSimone capitalized on an extra-man opportunity to cut the Duke lead back to three.
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DeSimone’s goal sparked a sudden shift in momentum, beginning a 4-2 run for Johns Hopkins to cut the deficit to one with just more than seven minutes remaining in the game. Playing just 30 miles south of the Blue Jays’ campus, the 13,047 fans in attendance began to come back to life as Duke appeared to be on its heels.
But not even a minute after Johns Hopkins' Kyle Marr scored to to make it a 9-8 game, Montgomery scored his first goal. He then followed up exactly one minute later with his second tally of the day, bring the lead back to three.
Nine seconds later, senior long pole Greg Pelton broke away from the faceoff and scored his first goal of the season to firmly end any Blue Jays run.
“Once you get to the playoffs—during the year you’re thinking, 'Oh, we want to have low goals against, we want to be a respected defense.' But you get to this point, you just want to win the game, score more goals than them, get our offense the ball,” Fowler said. “We made mistakes but tried to put them out of our heads. How the offense played helped us, Brian Smyth especially.
"We were ready to make the next stop because at that point that’s all that mattered. People forget about all the rest. It’s just about punching a ticket and advancing."
With the quarterfinal victory, Duke will advance to play top-seeded Maryland—a former ACC rival and the defending national champions—Saturday afternoon in at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The Blue Devils' semifinal is slated to start at 2:30 p.m., or approximately 30 minutes following the conclusion of the other semifinal between No. 2 seed Albany and third-seeded Yale.