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Duke men's lacrosse falls just short in tight contest against Notre Dame

Graduate midfielder Nakeie Montgomery tallied a team-high five points Saturday, along with sophomore attacker Brennan O'Neill.
Graduate midfielder Nakeie Montgomery tallied a team-high five points Saturday, along with sophomore attacker Brennan O'Neill.

With eight seconds left in Saturday's game, sophomore attacker Brennan O’Neill completed a hat trick with a rip past Notre Dame goalie Liam Entenmann just after the Duke defense forced a shot clock violation on the other side of the field. 

The goal capped off a solid all-around performance for Duke, but sometimes your best isn’t quite enough, and that was the case against the Fighting Irish as the Blue Devils fell 16-15 at home in Koskinen Stadium. 

“Notre Dame played a great game,” head coach John Danowski said after the game. “They were a great team, despite their losing record, and we knew they were a great team, and they were the better team today.”

With two periods left to play, Duke (9-5, 1-2 in the ACC) was still down three despite more caused turnovers, more shots—including on goal—and a near-even split of faceoff wins.

Notre Dame freshman Chris Kavanagh found the back of the net fast to start the second half, and it looked like Duke might have lost control of the game, suddenly down four. However, spinning away from his defender and leaping into the air, O’Neill tore the ball at the cage for his second of the day and freshman midfielder Andrew McAdorey completed a hat trick a little while later to keep Duke within striking distance, and a goal by freshman midfielder Reed Landin up close got the Blue Devils back within two. 

“Our freshmen today were responsible for six goals out of 15, and for a Division I team, that's a great day for those two young men. It's a great memory that they'll have—competing against Notre Dame on the big stage and playing very well,” Danowski said. 

Then, an Owen Caputo goal later, Duke looked ready to tie the game, down just one with a little over four minutes left in the third quarter. Goalie Mike Adler, though, picked up an ill-advised cross-checking penalty, and second-string goalie Andrew Bonafede had to sub in while Notre Dame (4-4, 2-1) went, and ultimately converted, on the extra-man opportunity to keep a two-goal lead going into the final frame. 

The Fighting Irish got the opportunity to extend that lead early in the fourth quarter when Jake Caputo and Wilson Stephenson each picked up penalties on the same play, giving Notre Dame its second two-man-up opportunity of the game. Duke had yet another three-goal hill to climb. 

“We knew that they were a terrific man-up team, and we knew that, if we created any penalties, that it would be very difficult to stop them and they did a good job. You’ve got to tip your cap to your opponent,” Danowski said.

From there, despite the defense forcing two quick shot-clock violations and a turnover near the crease, the Blue Devil offense couldn’t find an opening, and as a blocked shot trickled out of bounds it looked like Duke may have been out of luck. Though graduate midfielder Nakeie Montgomery was able to stuff the ball over Entenmann’s shoulder to make it a two-goal game, a goal right off the faceoff for Notre Dame saw the Blue Devils, with just under six minutes left to play, no closer to tying the game than they had been toward the start of the quarter. 

Landin then potted his third of the day off of a feed from Montgomery, but after a scoreless stretch for both teams, Duke remained down two without possession with under 40 seconds to play. O’Neill was able to find the back of the net one last time, but scoring a goal in eight seconds is a lot to ask, and ultimately Duke ended up one goal short of forcing overtime. 

“Once we started playing around Mike [Adler]...it put the confidence in the defensive end,” Stephenson said after the game. Still, he said, ”[Notre Dame] played like a team today.”

Duke opened the game with a shot clock violation, and Notre Dame made quick work of the turnover, with junior attacker Pat Kavanagh scoring his first goal of the day. Just a few seconds later, he scored another, and Duke was down two early. 

However, an O’Neill feed to Montgomery for a goal put Duke right back in it. After that, it was back-and-forth, with Notre Dame’s Eric Dobson trading a goal with McAdorey, the latter of whom cut towards the net and sniped it low. Still, it wasn’t long before the Fighting Irish went on a 3-0 run, capitalizing on turnovers and key saves.

Montgomery’s second goal of the game wasn’t enough to protect Duke from a significant four-goal deficit entering the second quarter, especially as Duke failed to convert on a great opportunity in transition and a subsequent possession. 

The Blue Devils outscored Notre Dame through the final three quarters, but that opening frame ended up defining the game, as they couldn’t surmount the margin it created. 

“[In the second half] we helped Mike [Adler] see the ball better. We didn’t help in the first half with that,” Stephenson said. 

O’Neill came out after a relatively quiet first quarter with fire. Facilitating a bevy of solid opportunities and working tirelessly to keep possession eventually paid off in his first goal of the game, as the sophomore picked the top left corner for the period’s first score. He ultimately finished with three goals and two assists, tying Montgomery for the team’s lead in points Saturday.

Later in the second, McAdorey once again showed off his athleticism, deking his way toward the crease to put Duke within two. After a wild scrum to gain possession after the faceoff, O’Neill passed the ball to Naso in transition, who dove away from a defender before lobbing the ball into the back of the net and sending the Alumni Weekend-boosted crowd into a frenzy in the process. 

However, Duke was never truly able to reel in Pat Kavanagh and company. The former Tewaaraton Award finalist led all players with seven points with his three goals and four assists, creating clutch plays to neutralize potential Blue Devil comeback runs. 

“You have to tip your cap to Pat Kavanagh," Stephenson said. "He makes all the guys around him much better."

Still, Duke will get the opportunity to rebound from the loss after a quick turnaround when it plays defending national champion Virginia at home Thursday.


Sasha Richie | Sports Managing Editor

Sasha Richie is a Trinity junior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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