Duke's season is now in full swing and, as with every year, stars emerge on the roster. Rarely, however, has a star emerged with as much force as Dyson Williams has this year.
Led by the freshman attackman, No. 13 Duke defeated No. 20 Richmond in a thrilling 16-15 overtime victory at Koskinen Stadium Friday evening, marking its first home win of the season. Williams finished with an exceptional seven goals, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished by a Blue Devil since 2008.
“I don’t think any of us are surprised,” head coach John Danowski said. “I think we’ll see more [of] these days than less. I don’t know about seven in a game, but you know he has that ability around the goal.”
Despite Williams’ dominance, the game had to be decided in overtime. Duke (3-2) was able to efficiently take care of business in the extra period, taking just over one minute for fifth-year senior Sean Lowrie to put the winning shot in the back of the net.
Williams single-handedly pulled the team out of a rut that looked to be ending the game before halftime. For the majority of the first quarter, the Blue Devils were hanging on, yet they were clearly losing the mental game. While they maintained possession and had sound fundamentals, they weren’t able to match the aggression of the visiting Spiders, leading to a 6-3 Richmond lead after the opening 15 minutes.
“We kind of looked at each in the huddle after the first quarter and realized that, ‘Hey it’s us against the world right now.’” Williams said. “Every team that we face is going to give us their best, so I think after that first quarter when we realized we were down, we just wanted to come out and really own it.”
As the second quarter trudged on, Duke’s situation looked more and more grim, hitting its lowest point when the Spiders (2-3) went up 8-4 six minutes into the period. It was at this point when something clicked for the would-be hero Williams.
The Oshawa, Ontario native had been dormant, but the four-goal deficit kicked him into gear and pushed him to another level. He completed his hat trick by the 3:27 mark of the second quarter, scoring his second and third goals within a one-minute timeframe, but it didn’t end there. After his fourth goal just over a minute later set a new career high and cut Duke's deficit to 8-7, Williams proceeded to tie up the score at eight with no time left on the clock.
“We had to find some fight in us, and I thought we did,” Danowski said. “I thought we were pretty passive in that first quarter, but we were just competing. We found some fight in us that we haven’t seen this year, so that was really good to see.”
Once the second half started, the Blue Devils had the momentum and confidence to close out the game. Sophomore Owen Caputo and junior Cameron Badour added to the scoreboard while the Blue Devils stifled any and all Richmond attacks.
In the second and third quarters combined, Duke outshot the Spiders 26-10 and outscored them 11-4.
The Blue Devils' biggest weakness of the night was the performance of their goalies. Up until Friday, Turner Uppgren and his backup, Andrew Bonafede, had been strong assets this season. But the pair saw a dramatic drop in effectiveness against Richmond, allowing a combined 15 goals off of just 19 shots on goal.
“The goalies really aren’t at fault,” Danowski said. “Defensively, we kind of let them down a little bit…. We’ll have to watch the film and figure out how to get better defensively.”
Duke’s fundamental advantages were what kept it in the game at the start, but the collapse of said fundamentals in the fourth quarter nearly resulted in its downfall.
After securing a solid yet vulnerable four-point lead, the Blue Devils let their foot off the gas and began to play conservatively. Duke’s complacency allowed the Spiders to attack the goal in the same fashion that built their lead in the first quarter. Richmond outscored the Blue Devils 5-1 to tie up the score at 15 before the end of regulation.
Duke reawakened and performed well in overtime, but it must recognize that the finish to the game was in no way ideal. If the Blue Devils are going to be legitimate threats this season, then it is essential that they stay aggressive from start to finish, and not quit when they get a lead.
Next, Duke will take on Furman back at Koskinen Stadium Sunday at 1 p.m., having reclaimed its winning record and establishing a future star in Williams.
"Everyone that goes on the field is a threat to score and a threat to make a play," Williams said. "And I think that, no matter what play we’re running, guys are open and tonight I got open a few more times than normal.”
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.