With 7:23 left in what might have been the final game of his collegiate career, Tar Heel graduate attacker Chris Gray broke the all-time NCAA career points record that Lyle Thompson previously set at Albany in 2015 with an unassisted goal emblematic of the former Tewaaraton Award finalist’s storied career.
But his parade was both literally and metaphorically rained on when, after a lightning delay of more than an hour, Duke crushed rival North Carolina 19-11 in front of a packed Koskinen Stadium crowd.
“It’s one of those games, right?” junior attacker Dyson Williams, who finished with three goals, said after the game. “We get that lightning delay to start off the game….So that was obviously tough to deal with right away, but we kept it loose and came back here, warmed up and….We just knew, this is the type of night, like Coach said, the tougher team will win.”
After a fast start for both teams, followed by a second quarter with only four combined goals, Duke (11-5, 3-2 in the ACC) went to the locker room with the same one-score deficit it entered the second quarter with.
The Blue Devils had something to say about that, though, scoring four unanswered in the first five minutes of the second half, including a two-goal eruption from graduate midfielder Nakeie Montgomery and a behind-the-back laser from Williams to finish off his hat trick.
After two more Blue Devil goals, Montgomery’s third put Duke up 13-7. Then, junior defender Will Frisoli found himself on the other end of the field where he bypassed Tar Heel goalie Collin Krieg for his first goal of the season, capping off a quarter in which the Blue Devils scored eight goals and gave up zero.
“We get rolling, we do our thing, we score a bunch in the third,” Williams said. “I think that both ends of the ball.... When we're playing as a full team and…. All playing great, it's a really cool feeling.”
While North Carolina (8-6, 1-5) was able to break its 20:25 scoring drought with a record-tying goal from Gray to open the fourth, another flurry of goals from the Blue Devils—including two each from graduate attacker Joe Robertson and freshman midfielder Andrew McAdorey—sealed the Tar Heels’ fate. Gray's record-setting night couldn’t save them, and ultimately, that third quarter ended up deciding the game.
Aside from some halftime adjustments that helped the offense take advantage of the defensive attention given to sophomore attacker Brennan O’Neill, Duke thrived in the third largely on the back of a near-perfect performance at X from faceoff specialist Jake Naso. The sophomore won 7-of-9 faceoffs in the third to keep North Carolina from getting a chance in the offensive zone. This put the ball back in the hands of an on-fire offense and ultimately culminated in Duke getting 12 shots on goal to the Tar Heels’ four.
“Jake Naso was terrific,” head coach John Danowski said. “We had the ball a lot, we won a bunch of faceoffs… so we have the ball, we’re scoring a goal, getting the ball back, and so we didn't play a lot of defense in that third quarter.”
The first quarter, however, had a different tone. Though both teams seemingly had to shake off some rust after the delayed start and there was some slipping and sliding on the field, that didn’t hinder either side's fast-paced offense. After a quick North Carolina score, graduate midfielder Cam Badour grabbed Duke’s first goal of the game off of an assist from O’Neill, which the Tar Heels responded to in kind.
Then, a man down on a one-minute, unreleasable penalty, the Blue Devil defense forced a turnover behind the net and moved the ball all the way up the field with some crisp passing. The ball eventually ended up in the hands of O’Neill, who deked his defender and snapped the ball past Krieg’s feet. Right after, Naso won the faceoff and carried the ball to the net for his sixth goal of the season, and Duke had scored two shorthanded goals to take a 3-2 lead, giving the stands a taste of what was to come.
However, a little back and forth saw the Blue Devils trail 5-4 at the end of the first quarter. Still, they ended the period on a high note, with their fourth goal coming from Williams for his 100th career point.
“Dyson is such a great young man. He works incredibly hard. His right hand has improved tremendously. He’s got a real knack around the goal, as a lot of Canadian players do because of their box experience. And we’re delighted that he’s on our team,” Danowski said.
Now, with North Carolina firmly in the rearview, the Blue Devils look toward their final regular-season game Saturday against Notre Dame, which will likely be the final item in their NCAA tournament resume.
“We're just gonna celebrate tonight, because you get one night to enjoy. And then tomorrow, we'll get back to work,” Danowski said. “The beauty of our schedule is we have no more school, and we're just full-time lacrosse players. So we'll spend some extra time shooting, we’ll spend some extra time in the weight room or watching film, being together, a lot of team building…. And hopefully, we’ll be ready to compete next Saturday.”
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Sasha Richie is a Trinity senior and a sports managing editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.