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Duke men's lacrosse clinches Final Four appearance with NCAA quarterfinal win against Notre Dame

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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.

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.—This time around, Notre Dame would not spoil Duke’s postseason hopes. 

Three weeks after the Fighting Irish toppled the Blue Devils 12-10 in the ACC tournament semifinal behind a five-goal performance from Bryan Costabile, Duke earned its revenge on Notre Dame on an even bigger stage.

In a back-and-forth affair that began with a 4-0 Blue Devil advantage, second-seeded Duke defeated the seventh-seeded Fighting Irish 14-13 Saturday afternoon in the NCAA championship quarterfinal at James M. Shuart Stadium. With the win, the Blue Devils earned their second consecutive Final Four berth and will next play in the NCAA championship semifinal May 25 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia.

“Everybody wants to win 20-0, but it never works out that way," Duke head coach John Danowski said. "If we were down 4-0, we would have fought back. These [quarterfinal] games are with teams of very talented young men, coaching staffs who work hard preparing their teams, and [the teams] just have at it.”

Joe Robertson's overtime goal with the shot clock running down clinched the game for the Blue Devils.

“I looked to my left and there were a couple seconds before the whistle blew," Robertson said. "I realized they were putting the short stick on me, and the left side of the field was pretty clear, and when I got it I ran as hard as I could to my left, and shot the ball with my left hand.” 

The opening faceoff of overtime resulted in a scramble for possession, and without a key ground ball from senior defenseman Cade Van Raaphorst, Robertson would not have had his goal opportunity.

And once Van Raaphorst picked up the ball, he was confident that the offense would put away Notre Dame for good.

"We knew once we picked up that ground ball in overtime, we were going to win it and that we were done playing defense.”

Duke (13-4) dominated at the start, but the Fighting Irish would not let the Blue Devils win without a fight.

After Notre Dame (9-7) scored the first four goals of the fourth quarter, Duke answered. In fitting fashion, Jake Seau scored for the Blue Devils 47 seconds later, tying the score at 12 with just more than six minutes left to play.

Robertson bounced in a shot to put Duke ahead with 1:59 left, but Brian Willetts scored 35 seconds later to even the score, and two stalled Fighting Irish possessions forced the game into overtime.

"This was one of the most fun games I’ve ever played in," Van Raaphorst said, "Obviously when they go on their runs, I wanted to stop them, but I couldn’t keep a smile off my face the whole time."

With the shot clock expiring just two minutes into the first quarter, Joey Manown snuck in the first goal of the game. Duke kept up the offensive onslaught, and a goal from Brad Smith pushed the Blue Devils to a quick 2-0 lead.

Duke attackman Sean Lowrie also got in on the early scoring action, and put across two goals in the first quarter, the first off a CJ Carpenter assist and the second off a ground ball pickup following a blocked shot from Carpenter.

Down 4-0, the Fighting Irish responded with an offensive explosion of their own. Brian Willetts opened Notre Dame scoring with a goal on an extra-man opportunity near the end of the first quarter.  After goals from Ryder Garnsey and Wheaton Jackoboice brought the Fighting Irish within one, Willetts evened the score at four, erasing the Blue Devils’ early lead. 

But with the score even at four, Duke would end Notre Dame’s run and pull ahead again. 

Nakeie Montgomery broke free for a goal with just under nine minutes remaining in the second quarter, and assisted a Carpenter goal two minutes later to extend the Blue Devil lead. The Dallas native gave Notre Dame headaches all afternoon, finishing the contest with a goal and four assists. 

Duke attackman Robertson and Garnsey traded goals, and the two teams entered halftime with the Blue Devils holding a 7-5 advantage.

Early in the third quarter, Notre Dame regained momentum. ACC Defensive Player of the Year JT Giles-Harris let Brendan Gleason get some space, and the Fighting Irish attackman put in his 25th goal of the year. Garnsey added another goal on Notre Dame's next possession, and the score was tied yet another time.

With the Fighting Irish on a run, the Blue Devils would again answer. Kevin Quigley, Manown and Carpenter all scored in a three-minute stretch in the middle of the third quarter, giving Duke another lead.

Carpenter and Montgomery proved to be too much for the Fighting Irish defense to handle. Carpenter scored twice off assists from Montgomery, and the Blue Devil duo was the heartbeat of Duke's offense. 

"Notre Dame's a huge rival, and for me it's always an extra focus when it's Notre Dame week," Carpenter said. "We always know they're going to have a great defense—they have a great scheme—so the focus and preparation is really important."

Duke will advance to take on third-seeded Virginia, which took down Maryland 13-12 in overtime earlier in the afternoon in the same venue. At the Final Four, the Blue Devils will look to avenge last season’s 13-11 loss to Yale in the NCAA championship final. Should Duke emerge from Philadelphia with two victories, it will be the Blue Devils’ fourth national championship and first title since 2014.

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