No. 2 Duke men's lacrosse thrashes High Point as Naso becomes program's all-time face-off leader

Jake Naso scoops the ball and runs with it during Duke's season opener against Bellarmine.
Jake Naso scoops the ball and runs with it during Duke's season opener against Bellarmine.

The good first impression continues.

No. 2 Duke built on its strong opener the weekend prior Saturday afternoon with a commanding 21-9 point win against High Point, the Blue Devils’ first in hostile territory this season. Early in the game, the Blue Devils pulled off a strong 8-3 run followed by a much more contested second quarter, before eventually running away with things in the third.

Leading scorer and graduate student Dyson Williams led the way with five goals along with senior attacker Brennan O’Neill, who racked up two assists and two goals. The spotlight was taken by senior FOGO Jake Naso, however, who finished the day 17-of-31 from the spot, becoming Duke’s all-time face-off leader in the process.

“I thought that, we gotta keep in mind that it's only February 10, so its early, very early in the season,” said head coach John Danowski. “We’ve only been out in practice for a month and it's never gonna look perfect at this time of the year and it shouldn’t, but it was a terrific start.”

Duke (2-0) started hot, leading 4-2 in the first quarter after graduate student Jake Caputo put a thunderbolt through the net. It was all Blue Devils after that, who dominated the opening frame. Then came the second quarter, where both teams looked a bit more rusty. An unassisted goal by High Point redshirt junior Colin Cooke decreased Duke’s lead to 10-5 by the end of the period, adding some jeopardy to what was once a comfortable opening half hour.

“High Point was a very scrappy, very aggressive team and so offensively the team was very unselfish, a lot of great ball movement which allowed us to score eight goals in the first quarter,” Danowski said. “Took a little bit of a siesta, so to speak, in the second quarter. We failed to clear a couple of times, we lost a few face offs and you gotta tip your cap to your opponent when that happens but the third quarter, came back 8-1, and felt really good about how the guys responded at halftime.”

Duke managed to respond well in the third quarter, in part due to its ball-movement and defense. The Blue Devils racked up a total of six saves during the third quarter, and only surrendered one goal in the entire period. The team also added 12 shots on goal for the quarter compared to the Panthers’ seven, scoring eight goals in the process.

“When teams slide, the way you beat a good sliding team is with ball-movement,” Danowski said. “When teams don’t slide and they force you to beat them one-on-one, you're gonna need to be able to dodge and to break a defender down and beat them and score, so you’ve gotta be able to do both, and in some games you’ve gotta be able to do both of those things within a game.”

As the game went on and the Blue Devils continued to increase their lead, things only got easier for them. Prior to the second half, Duke struggled to communicate effectively, accounting in part for the seven turnovers it had in the second quarter. Once the Blue Devils rectified that and improved their communication, their attack became much more fluid and the goals began to rain on High Point (1-1). 

“I thought we communicated much better in the third quarter, I thought guys saw situations, were ready to help one another,” Danowski said. “I thought that we were a little bit quiet in the second quarter or we didn’t listen to one another and maybe guys were calling out guys for things to slide or make a play and weren’t doing that, but in the third quarter we did a really good job in communicating.”

Williams was one of the many who flourished, building upon his highly successful career at Duke. As one of many 2023 seniors who returned for the 2024 season, Williams has taken his role as a scoring threat to another level. His chemistry with the other veterans, especially newcomer Josh Zawada, who he played with in high school, was a defining factor Saturday. 

“Dyson is a fifth-year senior, he was number one in the indoor draft and the National Lacrosse League this past year, and Josh Zawada and him played in high school together,” Danowski said. “They were high-school teammates, so they’re developing a little bit of chemistry along with Brennan, and it's gonna take time and they’re gonna get better as the season goes on. But they’re starting to develop some chemistry in game situations and so far they’ve been successful together.” 

A 21-9 win against the Panthers on the road is no mean feat, and may be indicative about the team’s potential down the road. For now, however, eyes turn to Duke’s next home game against St. Joseph’s, slated for this coming Saturday at 12 p.m.


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