Early run sparks Duke men's lacrosse to top-10 road win against Penn

Duke sophomore Andrew McAdorey runs toward goal in Duke's February win against Bellarmine.
Duke sophomore Andrew McAdorey runs toward goal in Duke's February win against Bellarmine.

Eight unanswered.

That’s how many goals No. 10 Duke fired past junior goalkeeper Emmet Carroll in the first half Saturday afternoon on its way to a massive 14-12 road win against No. 8 Penn. Although light snow fell onto Franklin Field in Philadelphia, nothing could snuff out the Blue Devils’ fire as they wreaked havoc on both ends of the field.

“The guys just kept playing,” Duke head coach John Danowski said of his team’s fight.

Duke started out the game on a slower note, allowing Penn to win the faceoff and score within the first 40 seconds. Down 2-0 after five minutes with little offensive momentum, the Blue Devils (4-1) seemed to be on the back foot. However, Andrew McAdorey took matters into his own hands. Driving toward the goal, the 5-foot-9 sophomore dodged and split the double team, gunning home a quick shot just before taking a lick from a sliding third defender. 

“Andrew McAdorey made a tremendous individual effort to get our first goal,” said Danowski, “and everyone seemed to relax after that.”

McAdorey’s highlight-reel effort sparked the team’s eight-goal run, which included scores from six different Blue Devils. The team play paid dividends, as Penn (1-1) was unable to keep up with Duke’s ball movement. For example, a dot from McAdorey allowed Owen Caputo to bounce an underhand shot five-hole as the shot clock expired to extend the lead to 6-2.

“We got some goals from some different people who usually don’t score. We got some production coming from different people who scored,” said Danowski. “Guys were patient offensively and that was really good.”

A massive part of the Blue Devils’ run included excellent defense and netminding from graduate transfer William Helm, who finished the second period with three saves. The Loudonville, N.Y., native finished the day with 19 saves on 31 shots faced and did not allow a goal for a stretch of 29 minutes. 

One of Helm’s biggest saves of the day included a stick save against Penn’s Sam Handley to preserve Duke’s momentum. Handley, USA Lacrosse Magazine’s D-I Men’s Preseason Player of the Year, was locked down by the aggressive Duke defense, limited to one goal and one assist. At one point, Duke defensive captain Wilson Stephenson, given the assignment of guarding the best player in the country, cracked a nasty stick check to dispossess Handley, leading to a four-on-three counter that Duke’s Brennan O’Neill slotted comfortably home for a goal.

“He’s great,” Stephenson said of Handley. “He has all the accolades for a reason. You got to bring your A-game against him. You just try to be as disruptive as you can out there.”

“Wilson Stephenson drew the task of covering [Handley],” said Danowski. “Wilson did a terrific job … and scored a goal. We haven’t seen a game like that for a long time out of a defender.”

Duke, after allowing Denver to take control in the third quarter last week, once again struggled to control the pace of play out of halftime. After seemingly putting the game out of reach with a doorstep dunk by Williams to make it 10-3, the Quakers roared back to life, scoring four unanswered to cut the Blue Devil lead to 10-7.

After Penn’s Dylan Gergar stuffed home a beautiful pass from Gabe Furey, Duke found itself in a two-goal game with nine minutes to go. However, effective faceoff work from junior Jake Naso, who won 18 of 29 contests, allowed the home team to create positive offensive possessions to keep the Quakers at an arm’s length until time expired.

“They’re incredibly dangerous. They’ve got two high-end offensive players,” Danowski said of Penn. “They play with such confidence. And so we knew that we were going to have to battle for 60 minutes.”

Duke travels to No. 18 Syracuse to open ACC play March 5. After two days of rest to recover physically, the Blue Devils will be back to work.

“We’ll get back to work Tuesday, watch film and start to prepare,” Danowski said.


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