2021 was a season of exciting highs and disappointing lows for Duke. The Blue Devils fielded what was arguably, on paper, the most talented squad in their history. They won the regular season ACC title and entered the NCAA tournament as the national No. 3, led by the recently-departed offensive weapon that was Michael Sowers and miserly defending of J.T. Giles-Harris. Despite the names it boasted and raw talent it had at its disposal, Duke ultimately found itself on the way home after a crushing semifinal loss to Maryland, though, and with questions over whether an abundance of star names is key to success in May.
Bring on a new year, and the Blue Devils once again scored the nation’s number one recruit, held onto the much of last year’s spine and locked down some of its seniors and graduate students to an extra year of NCAA eligibility. They also added Penn transfer Sean Lulley in attack, who should bring an extra dimension of firepower to an already stacked front three. All the pieces are, theoretically, there for Duke to realize its perennially lofty ambitions and make a deep run on the national level. It’s now down to head coach John Danowski and yet another talented roster to make its star-sheet count, to avenge last year’s postseason disappointment and bring trophy number four back to Koskinen Stadium. -Andrew Long
New player to watch: Andrew McAdorey
Another year, and another top recruit for head coach John Danowski and company. McAdorey was long rated the No. 1 overall player in the Class of 2021, and while he fell to No. 2 in Inside Lacrosse’s Incoming Freshman rankings earlier this month, there’s no doubt he’ll play an important role on the Blue Devils’ offense this season. He and attackman Brennan O’Neill—last year’s No. 1 overall recruit and ACC Freshman of the Year—played together in high school and at the club level dating back to middle school; their chemistry on the field could be the difference between this team being a contender or a champion. -Evan Kolin
Returning player(s) to watch: Brennan O’Neill and Kenny Brower
O’Neill stormed onto the college lacrosse scene last year, collecting the ACC Freshman of the Year Award, finishing first in the nation among freshmen in goals per game, finishing second among all ACC players in goals and leading Duke in goals, as well as being an honorable mention All-American. A sniper of the highest degree, O’Neill is the most dangerous offensive threat the Blue Devils will have in their arsenal this season. However, he’ll be an interesting storyline to watch as he’s been largely overlooked in the preseason awards. The ACC is chock full of talent at attack, so establishing himself among the conference’s best could be a steep hill to climb, especially as he takes on more responsibility in the unit with the graduation of Michael Sowers.
Meanwhile, while Duke returns a considerable amount of talent, one of its most glaring holes is perennial All-American and 2021 national defenseman of the year JT Giles-Harris. In his absence, it will be junior Kenny Brower’s turn to lead the defense. The preseason Honorable Mention All-American and All-ACC defenseman will have big shoes to fill as the Blue Devils take on some very offensively talented teams this season, and one of the biggest deciders for this team’s season outlook will be how the defense as a whole steps up. -Sasha Richie
Most anticipated matchup: Virginia, Apr. 14
Just about one year ago, Duke was staring down the gauntlet of expectations surrounding its newfound “superteam” label. Those Blue Devils mostly lived up to the hype, navigating an ever-tough ACC slate in thrilling fashion and reaching the 13th Final Four in program history. But when the dust settled in East Hartford, Ct., it was Virginia, not Duke, who brought home the NCAA title.
Heading into 2022, the scripts have flipped for the ACC foes with Virginia the odds-on favorite to three-peat as national champion. But with a Duke team that returns most top offensive producers even without 2021 top scorer Michael Sowers, the sky remains the limit in Durham. By the time mid-April rolls around and both the conference and national pictures look a little more clear, the Blue Devils and Cavaliers could be set to add another high-stakes chapter to this budding ACC rivalry. -Jonathan Levitan
Just like any other Duke men’s lacrosse season, the goal is a national championship. And this roster definitely has the potential to accomplish that goal. The Blue Devils don’t have the “superteam” on paper that they had last season, but that might even be a good thing after last year’s NCAA semifinal loss to Maryland exposed the chemistry and identity issues that came with such a loaded roster. Making up for the loss of perennial All-American JT Giles-Harris on the defensive end will be a hurdle, but this team certainly has the potential for a dogpile on Memorial Day. -Kolin
As we saw during Duke’s rigorous ACC slate and disappointing postseason, a stellar squad doesn’t always guarantee stellar results. The Blue Devils didn’t win a conference game by more than one goal in 2021–three of which in overtime–and struggled in the NCAA tournament, edging out a nail biter against Loyola before getting dumped out 14-5 by eventual runners-up Maryland. If Duke struggles to build the chemistry it seemingly lacked last spring, it may see itself outclassed by teams with arguably less talent but more cohesion. Making the tournament won’t be an issue for Danowski and company, but a Sweet 16 or Elite Eight exit is possible. -Long
Kolin: 13-4 (4-2 in the ACC), loss in NCAA Championship Game
Long: 14-3 (4-2 in the ACC), National Champions
Levitan: 15-2 (5-1 in the ACC), loss in NCAA Championship Game
Richie: 15-2 (4-2 in the ACC), loss in NCAA Semifinals
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Jonathan Levitan is a Trinity senior and was previously sports editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.
Andrew Long is a Trinity junior and sports editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.