No. 2 Duke men's lacrosse keeps rolling, runs past St. Josephs behind hat tricks from O'Neill, Williams

Brennan O'Neill (left) and Dyson Williams (middle) celebrate with Josh Zawada (right) during Duke's win against St. Joseph's.
Brennan O'Neill (left) and Dyson Williams (middle) celebrate with Josh Zawada (right) during Duke's win against St. Joseph's.

St. Joseph was a carpenter by trade, but it was Duke who dropped the hammer.

On Saturday afternoon in Koskinen Stadium, the second-ranked Blue Devils extended their undefeated streak with a determined 19-10 win against the Hawks. Behind a six-goal scoring effort from senior attackman Brennan O’Neill, in addition to six assists from Josh Zawada and a hat trick from Dyson Williams, Duke broke away in the second half and never looked back. 

Head coach John Danowski said postgame that this win was the first big challenge of the young season.

“You have to earn everything that you get ... This one was different. And I think the guys were learning on the fly,” Danowski said. “[The team was] learning what it's like to pick up a big ground ball under pressure ... to see the Canadian-type shooters, players they have who are really highly skilled.”

Right out of the gate, a forced turnover by Williams led to an immediate goal by O’Neill. Despite its early scoring efforts, Duke (3-0) didn’t hold the lead for long. A response by St. Joseph’s (0-2) equalized the score at 1-1, and the Hawks were able to get another one soon after to take the lead.

This is the Blue Devils’ second home matchup this season; the first ended in a 20-12 slaughtering of Bellarmine two weeks ago. So when St. Joseph’s continued to stick with Duke well into the second quarter, it felt like the team was playing above its pay grade.

“[The Hawks are] very well coached. They had 10 days to prepare for us. They didn't play last Saturday. They played the Tuesday before that,” Danowski said. “They were well prepared, and they were excited to play. They played hard, which we knew they would. And they were just in there being disruptive.”

St. Joseph’s was able to hang with the Blue Devils all the way through the first quarter. In the final seconds of the first frame with the score tied at 5-5, the Hawks held onto the ball to attempt to get the last shot in before the break. Duke was able to regain possession with 10 seconds remaining and work the ball across the field before defender Jake Wilson was able to slide one in right before the buzzer to hand his team the one-goal lead. 

“I thought that once we settled down offensively, we were pretty effective,” Danowski said.

In the second quarter, the Blue Devils started to break away. With help from O’Neill and goals from underclassmen Benn Johnston and Max Sloat, Duke outscored its opponents 3-1.

With O’Neill’s second-quarter goal, he completed a first-half hat trick. Included in his three scores was a behind-the-back goal that bounced off the ground before nestling in the top right corner — a goal worthy of any highlight reel.

“You let it come to you. You don't plan on anything and you just play and take what you have,” O’Neill said. “I saw it as an opportunity. I was running, saw Dyson and was thinking about passing it to him. No one came to me, and it just increased my angle, shooting behind the back.”

Entering the second half up by three, Duke put its foot on the gas. Through a smorgasbord of third-quarter goals, the Blue Devils extended the lead to seven leading into the final frame. 

Additionally, multiple Duke goalies contributed to the victory. Freshman starter Patrick Jameison recorded 12 saves with a 0.571 save rate. A second-period interference penalty from Jameison caused Princeton transfer Griffen Rakower to get in front of the net. Rakower saved three of the four shots aimed at his net in an effective cameo. 

The Blue Devil dominance carried into the final frame, when graduate midfielder Grant Mitchell earned his first goal of the season and O’Neill completed his second half hat trick — bringing his tally on the season to 12. 

And as the Blue Devils prepare to take on Jacksonville Friday, O’Neill says he plans to cherish every moment of his senior season. 

“I'm looking forward to the next game. I don't want to look too much into the future. It's my last year, and I want to enjoy every day,” he said. “I want to enjoy tonight, Sunday, Monday, my first practice next week and just have fun with my guys every day.”


Share and discuss “No. 2 Duke men's lacrosse keeps rolling, runs past St. Josephs behind hat tricks from O'Neill, Williams” on social media.