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Duke men’s lacrosse collapses late against Syracuse

<p>Joe Robertson scored the game winner to send the Blue Devils to the Final Four, finally knocking off a Notre Dame squad that has caused them headaches throughout the season.</p>

Joe Robertson scored the game winner to send the Blue Devils to the Final Four, finally knocking off a Notre Dame squad that has caused them headaches throughout the season.

With an 8-4 lead in the fourth quarter, Duke looked like it had finally crushed its recent struggles against its ACC foes from up north. After a long, excruciating nine minutes, it all changed.

The No. 2 Blue Devils gave up five unanswered goals, including the game-winner in overtime, and fell to No. 12 Syracuse 9-8 Saturday at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. Brendan Curry netted the decisive goal for the Orange in overtime with 41 ticks left.

“They’ve got terrific, skilled players, and they just kept playing,” head coach John Danowski said. “Give a team enough opportunities, enough chances. I thought we took some shots early in possessions in the second half. We really didn’t get enough multiple shot possessions. You’ve got to tip your cap to Syracuse’s defense and their goalie. They just kept playing.”

After tying the contest with 1:24 to play, the Orange got the ball and held for the last shot. Curry raced up and fired a shot that hit the crossbar, but the ball ricocheted off and flew to the other side of the field. Duke picked it up and tried to call timeout, but the clock expired.

In overtime with the shot clock about to expire, Nate Solomon, who led his team with two goals and two assists, fired a dangerous pass across the field to Curry. Blue Devil defenseman Peter Welch gambled and went for the steal but the ball snuck through. All that was left to do for Curry was bury it at the crease.

“That’s a play where we tell kids in overtime to play to win,” Danowski said. “He thought he could make a play and I’ve got to trust him. He missed and allowed their guy to get underneath. I think some of this stuff is being opportunistic. That’s what a good offensive team does is if the defense makes a mistake they’ll try to take advantage of it.”

Saturday marked the third year in a row that the Orange have won by one goal, two of which came in overtime. Curry had missed his first eleven shots of the day but nailed the big one to give his team the victory.

“When kids are on the field, they’re going to make plays," Danowski said. "We have a saying ‘Shoot to get hot, shoot to stay hot.’ Just keep playing and see what happens.”

Duke (8-2, 0-1 in the ACC) came out of the gates firing and quickly grabbed a 3-0 lead behind a rocket from Joe Robertson and a pair from Garrett Leadmon. They finished with two goals apiece and were joined by Joey Manown, who tallied two goals and an assist.

The Orange (5-2, 1-1) came into halftime down 6-3, a welcome mark after being held scoreless in the second quarter. Syracuse held a slight 20 to 19 advantage in shots, but couldn’t sneak them past Duke goalie Turner Uppgren, who notched 11 saves.

Next up, the Blue Devils will aim for their first ACC victory of the season when they take a quick trip to Chapel Hill to face No. 19 North Carolina. Three out of the last four meetings between the rivals has been decided by one goal.

“Disappointed, but happy with our effort,” Danowski emphasized. “I know this game is going to make us a better team going forward.