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Duke men's lacrosse rides late run to critical conference victory against Virginia

<p>Joe Robertson led Duke with three goals.</p>

Joe Robertson led Duke with three goals.

As morning turned to afternoon in Durham, there was not a raindrop to be seen. But with storms rolling in, a top-10 matchup had to wait just a bit.

Four and a half hours after the original noon start, No. 6 Duke turned it on late, riding a 7-1 outburst during the final 19:11 to push past fourth-ranked Virginia 12-7 Saturday at Koskinen Stadium. The Cavaliers came to Durham having already secured the top seed in the upcoming ACC tournament, yet the Blue Devils found a way to extend their home winning streak to eight after a stunning early-season defeat to High Point.

Sophomore attackman Joe Robertson—who knotted the game at six apiece in the third quarter—led Duke with three scores, all coming during that late surge, and senior goalie Turner Uppgren made a dozen saves, as the Blue Devils moved into a tie for fifth in scoring defense among all Division I teams.

“The guys were excited to play,” head coach John Danowski told GoDuke.com. “It’s the last regular season game in Koskinen and they just wanted to play. We had mentioned it yesterday and again this morning at pregame meal that [a delay] could happen and they would have to handle whatever comes our way.”

If the change of plans had any impact on Duke (10-3, 2-2 in the ACC), the Blue Devils certainly didn't show it. They grabbed a quick 2-0 lead within the first five minutes courtesy of goals by Sean Lowrie and Reilly Walsh.

Of course, Virginia wasn't going to go quietly. The Cavaliers responded with three goals of their own to grab control while they held Duke scoreless for nearly 17 minutes. But the Blue Devils regained the lead at 4-3 with another Lowrie goal and Nakeie Montgomery's 14th tally of the season.

Virginia (9-3, 3-1) then got back-to-back scores via Matt Moore, who finished the day with a game-high four goals, before the hosts leveled things just prior to intermission.

“I don’t think we were happy at halftime,” Danowski told GoDuke.com. “We scored twice on man up, but we were relatively disorganized. We didn’t communicate really well on the field.”

The stage was then set for Duke's overwhelming run. The Blue Devils have been a second-half team all season long, outscoring opponents 78-53 out of the locker room this season prior to Saturday. After the Cavaliers scored seven minutes into the third quarter, Virginia's top-10 offense went silent.

At the same time, Duke began to heat up, as Robertson got his first goal of the day. CJ Carpenter scored 51 seconds later and right off the ensuing faceoff, senior Brad Smith put home his 20th goal of the year.

In the span of a minute, the Blue Devils went from down 6-5 to up 8-6, and the momentum was theirs.

“The second half I thought we were more organized and played better together," Danowski told GoDuke.com "I think it was important that we just play right."

Duke would go on to score three goals in the first 11 minutes of the fourth quarter, extending its advantage to as many as five at 11-6. The two teams would trade scores as the final minutes ticked away, but the Blue Devils had done more than enough to secure their 10th win of the year.

Now, Duke will ready for a neutral-site matchup against Marquette next Saturday morning at Bethpage High School in Bethpage, N.Y. The Blue Devils will also be scoreboard-watching as No. 18 North Carolina visits No. 10 Notre Dame at noon—a Fighting Irish win would make Duke the No. 2 seed in the ACC tournament whereas a Tar Heel victory would bump the Blue Devils all the way down to the No. 4 seed.

Either way, Duke will get a postseason rematch with Notre Dame in Chapel Hill in less than two weeks.

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