Duke men’s lacrosse is on a tear. The Blue Devils have lost just one game this year, and they have beaten some of the strongest teams in the country. Recently, Duke came out on top in a 16-14 battle against then-No. 1 Virginia March 31, stringing together an eight-game win streak. As the Blue Devils continue their campaign that could very well result in an NCAA tournament run, let’s take a look at some of the key pieces of this year’s team.
Junior attackman Brennan O’Neill has been one of the best players on the team and in the country this year. He recorded a season-best six goals in the team’s victory against the Cavaliers, and was recently named the USA Lacrosse Player of the Week. The 6-foot-2 junior has been the beating heart of a lethal Duke attack all year long, averaging 3.2 goals per game. Largely due to O’Neill’s ability to score, the Blue Devils rank fourth this year in scoring offense, averaging 15.6 points per game.
Looking forward to a potential Duke playoff run, O’Neill’s continued ability to rack up consistent points and draw disproportionate attention from opposing defenses will be key for a team with lofty postseason aspirations.
Senior attackman Dyson Williams has been another key component of the Blue Devils’ potent offensive unit, leading the team in goals with 3.3 per game. Williams scored a whopping seven goals against High Point Feb. 7, and three during the win against the Cavaliers. Williams has been a consistent offensive piece for Duke, and he will be key as the end of the regular season draws near.
The story of graduate transfer William Helm, the Blue Devils’ starting goalie, is an interesting one. He came to Duke from St. Lawrence, a small Division III school in upstate New York. Head coach John Danowski could not have asked for a smoother transition to the Division I game. Helm has been the backbone of a defense that has allowed an average of just 10.2 goals per game, the third-best mark in the ACC and the 11th-best in the nation.
“William continues to surprise us,” said Danowski after the Virginia game. “Here's a guy that a year ago was playing Division III lacrosse. Now he's playing in the Duke-Virginia game, on ESPN on a Friday night, and he certainly held up his end of the bargain.”
Helm has had the fifth-best save percentage in the ACC so far this season, and as he continues to improve and adapt to the speed and strength of Division I lacrosse, there is nowhere to go but up for the goalie. Look for him to be a key piece down the stretch.
The Blue Devils have some tough games coming up on the docket. On April 8, Duke will take on an extremely strong Notre Dame team, following that up with a rematch against Virginia April 15. The Blue Devils have one of the best squads in the nation, and they have proven that they can play at the highest level, but these next few games are crucial. If Duke continues to play like it did against the Cavaliers, there is no reason the team cannot make a deep postseason run.
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