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Duke men's lacrosse to battle Jacksonville Saturday looking for bounce-back win

<p>Nakeie Montgomery broke out at the end of last season.</p>

Nakeie Montgomery broke out at the end of last season.

Just three days after a stunning upset loss to unranked High Point, Duke looks to get back in gear, taking on Jacksonville in the confines of the Jacksonville Lacrosse Center.

The No. 2 Blue Devils will try to bounce back against the Dolphins Saturday at noon after a rough showing in their last outing. In Wednesday’s loss to the Panthers, Duke proved unable to generate consistent offensive chemistry, communicate in critical moments defensively and seemed generally sloppy, giving up an uncharacteristic 18 turnovers. 

“I thought we played selfishly,” Blue Devil head coach John Danowski said. “There was a lack of general, overall leadership. We didn’t play like a Duke team. We got no problem with losing, you win a game, you lose a game, but I didn’t think we had a lot of fight in us.”

In an environment where there are no longer any easy Division I games due to a rapidly increasing level of talent across all teams, parity has ruled men’s lacrosse. Jacksonville, coached by Syracuse legends John Galloway and Casey Powell, could have the ammunition to deal Duke (1-1) a second straight loss. 

The Dolphins (0-1) dropped their first contest of the year against Detroit Mercy 9-8, but rallied with four goals in the final quarter in a spirited comeback. Freshman Bo BowHunter led Jacksonville with four points by way of three goals and an assist, while fellow first-year Jack Pucci added three assists. 

For the Blue Devils, attacking from the faceoff X will be critical, as the team went 19-of-29 in the season-opening win against Furman, but followed with a 13-of-27 effort in the home loss to High Point. With junior Brian Smyth controlling the draw, Duke could have a chance to build some offensive momentum. The exact identity of the team is unclear on the offensive end as the attack has to find a way to replace the production of the NCAA’s all-time leader in career goals scored, Justin Guterding. Senior CJ Carpenter has stepped into the lineup more prominently, and graduate student Jake Seau returns to the first midfield line after an injury-plagued senior season. 

Between the pipes, the early returns have been mixed for redshirt junior Turner Uppgren, who took over for longtime starter Danny Fowler. Uppgren managed 10 saves against the Panthers, but was often left hung out to dry by the lack of defensive communication late in the game, allowing High Point midfielders to streak to the cage unchecked. Despite featuring preseason All-Americans in JT Giles-Harris and Cade Van Raaphorst, the defense appears to have strides to make in replacing departed graduate transfer Kevin McDonough on the close defense, though the return of graduate student Peter Welch at LSM eases the load on the newest addition to the top of the depth chart, Jack Fowler. 

“I’m looking for [our veterans] to survive [in practice]” Danowski said. “This is not going to be easy for them. We only have practice here for one day, then we’re going to head to Jacksonville and practice there. Jacksonville now has this film, their kids are going to be hungry. They saw who we were….We’re going to have our hands full Saturday”

Saturday’s matchup will determine if the Blue Devils can put the pieces together quickly before the schedule ramps up even further. 

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