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THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT: Duke men’s lacrosse moves onto title game behind freshman standouts

Rookies Nakeie Montgomery and Joe Robertson each registered hat tricks in the victory

<p>After grabbing a quick 6-0 advantage, Duke had to hold on to top No. 1 seed Maryland and earn a sixth trip to the national title game Monday.</p>

After grabbing a quick 6-0 advantage, Duke had to hold on to top No. 1 seed Maryland and earn a sixth trip to the national title game Monday.

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.—With a six-goal lead in less than 20 minutes, Duke seemed in control. But the defending champions weren't going away with ease, and it would take another spectacular performance from the Blue Devils' freshmen to play one more time in 2018.

Thanks to a pair of hat tricks from Nakeie Montgomery and Joe Robertson, No. 4 seed Duke knocked off top-seeded Maryland in the national semifinals Saturday 13-8 at Gillette Stadium, earning a chance to play for its fourth national title Monday.

Duke (16-3) opened up a big lead with a nearly flawless first quarter, as both the offense and defense were firing on all cylinders. 

“[Duke] started out fast, and we certainly did not,” Maryland head coach John Tillman said. “I give them credit. We just had a tough time getting our feet under us early, and they made us pay.”

Montgomery got the scoring started with an unassisted dodge right to the goal before Sean Lowrie—playing in his hometown—added an unassisted goal of his own five minutes later. Peter Conley then put a perfect shot past Maryland goalkeeper Dan Morris’ hip four minutes later before Justin Guterding tossed a pass to Kevin Quigley for a step down shot and goal to make it 4-0.

The Terrapins (14-4) had three first-quarter turnovers and barely got shots on goal while Duke goalkeeper Danny Fowler had two saves. Morris was the only thing keeping Maryland in the game initially, but he ceded another goal to Montgomery and then a transition score to Joe Robertson before the Terrapin run began. 

Jared Bernhardt and Anthony DeMaio scored two goals in 43 seconds to bring Maryland back to life, sparking a five-goal second quarter. Although Montgomery would add another goal to extend the Duke lead and make it a first-quarter hat trick for him, Logan Wisnauskas traded goals with Guterding before adding another. 

Tim Rotanz punctuated the big quarter for the Terrapins with a rocket shot from the midfield to beat Fowler, but Duke still led 8-5 as the teams headed to the locker room.

The run only continued after halftime, as Maryland star Connor Kelly and freshman Bubba Fairman found Fowler one-on-one on the doorstep and in transition, respectively, to cut the deficit to just one. 

Morris would stifle Duke on nearly every possession to start the second half until Joe Robertson, with just seconds left on the shot clock, beat him thanks to a pinpoint pass from Guterding, ending a nearly 15-minute drought.

There was a point where the game got a little tight, and I felt like I needed to kind of take over,” Guterding said. “That wasn't the way we were playing in the first half. [assistant coach] Matt Danowski came up to me and just said, remember, it's Duke versus Maryland, not you versus Maryland.”

Robertson’s goal sparked a Blue Devil run that would ultimately end the third quarter. Fowler and the defense stonewalled the opposition for the last seven minutes of the period, and in transition off of a Fowler save, Joey Manown found a streaking Reilly Walsh, who put a right-handed ripper past Morris, putting Duke up 10-7. 

“It felt good,” Fowler said. “I was seeing the ball today. I try to keep things for me as simple as possible, just focusing on seeing the next shot, and yeah, so today defense played well, had made them settle for some outside shots, saw it, and I did my job.”

The Blue Devils hung with the Terrapin punches in the fourth quarter, coming up big on the defensive end and buying the offense time until Robertson could score with 10 minutes remaining in the game to stretch the Duke lead to 11-7. The run just kept coming for the Blue Devils, as Guterding scored his 209th career goal with 6:48 remaining, sealing the deal on Duke head coach John Danowski's 399th career win.

“This has been a challenging group to work with this year,” Danowski said. “I mean, they're absolutely incredibly, incredible high-character kids. But it takes time. You know, there's this mesh of a couple of transfer graduate students, fifth-years, freshmen, returners, and so it takes a while…. Today I think you saw the end product of that.”

Now, the Blue Devils will get a day off before they play for Duke's 17th all-time national title across all sports when the Blue Devils return to Gillette Stadium for a 1 p.m. Memorial Day face-off against No. 3 seed Yale.


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