FOXBOROUGH, Mass.—The Blue Devils’ Justin Guterding entered Monday’s contest with one of the best resumes in college lacrosse history, owning the Divison I record for career goals and sitting just six points shy of Duke’s all-time points record.
The one item still missing from his resume—a national championship.
The fourth-seeded Blue Devils were unable to add to their three national championships Monday, falling to No. 3 seed Yale 13-11 in the NCAA title game at Gillette Stadium. After a stellar defensive effort against the nation’s top team in Maryland Saturday, Duke was unable to stop the high-octane Bulldog offense, never leading in the contest.
A two-goal performance for Guterding would not be enough to complete the comeback for the Blue Devils against a Yale team that combined to outscore Duke 7-1 in the first six minutes of each of the two halves. The Blue Devils were able to cut a five-goal third-quarter deficit to just a pair of goals with 3:13 to play, but it would not be enough as the Bulldogs held on for their first-ever title in program history.
"You've got to tip your cap to Yale," Guterding said. "They played great, and they came out hot.... It is tough to play from behind. I'm just proud of every guy on this team, and we gave it everything we could today."
In a highly anticipated matchup between Tewaaraton finalists Ben Reeves and Guterding, the Blue Devils (16-4) were unable to stop Yale’s secondary scorers, surrendering a pair of hat tricks to Jack Tigh and Matt Gaudet.
Coming off a 20-11 drubbing of Albany Saturday—in which the Bulldogs (17-3) spurted out to a 7-0 first-quarter lead—Yale took control of the game early with three goals in the contest’s first six minutes. After an unassisted goal from Jack Tigh on the opening possession, the Garden City, N.Y., native soon after doubled the Bulldog lead when he shredded Duke's porous defense and put the ball in the back of the net again with 11:07 remaining in the first quarter.
The Blue Devils would find itself in a three-goal hole just minutes later, after Gaudet scored on an assist from Lucas Cotler with a man-advantage to put the Bulldogs up 3-0 less than six minutes into the game.
"I was a little bit concerned, but I knew there was a lot of lacrosse left," Duke head coach John Danowski said. "I thought that Yale shot the ball particularly well. We didn't shoot the ball as well as we have been in the last couple weeks, and that just may have been the difference."
The Blue Devils would not collapse under Yale’s attack like the Great Danes, however, as goalkeeper Danny Fowler fought off three consecutive promising Bulldog shots, and when Kevin Quigley charged towards the goal and scored unassisted, Duke found itself down just two with 3:26 left in the first quarter.
The two teams would go back and forth for the rest of the first half with neither team able to pull away. After Yale stretched the lead to 4-1 on a man-up goal by Lucas Cotler, the Blue Devils’ Joey Manown cut the Yale lead to two after dashing around the defender behind the goal and finishing.
Duke would soon after take advantage of a man-up opportunity of their own on a goal by All-American Brad Smith assisted by Guterding, a fellow first-team All-American to bring the Blue Devils back within one.
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"I knew they'd battle back," Danowski said. "We've got great character. These are terrific young men to be around. But I knew we'd fight and continue. I really believed that we were going to make it 13-12 and we were going to face-off. Unfortunately, it didn't happen this week, but I think the theme is we're going to be back. When we do, this experience, we'll draw from it."
Tigh, however, quickly responded on the ensuing possession with another breakaway goal of his own for the Bulldogs to complete the hat trick.
After an additional goal by each team in the half’s final minutes, Yale carried a two-goal advantage entering the locker room.
Out of the break, the Bulldogs turned to scorers Reeves and Gaudet to take control, jumping out to a five-goal advantage early in the third quarter. The Blue Devils would add a goal by Manown and a pair from Guterding, but the inability to dominate the faceoff X and string together possessions ultimately hampered any chances of a comeback.
"At the end of the day, we still gave up some uncharacteristic decision making and some—we took some bad angles and just did some things that we hadn't been doing," Danowski said. "Now, again, you've got to tip your cap to your opponent, because they make you do those things. So not until we look at the film tomorrow morning and grade it will we have a better feel for it."