DURHAM, N.C. – The defending NCAA-champion Duke Blue Devils men’s lacrosse team overcame an early deficit and defeated the Jacksonville Dolphins 16-10 in their season-opener at Koskinen Stadium on Saturday.
Duke’s offense led by Josh Dionne (5g, 1a), Jordan Wolf (2g, 4a) and Chad Cohan (2g, 3a) needed almost the entire first quarter before beating Dolphins keeper Pete DeLuca who finished with 16 saves on 44 shots faced.
The Blue Devils faced a better Jacksonville team than they did in the two teams’ previous four meetings, as they fell behind 3-0 until Thomas Zenker scored the first goal of the season with 1:23 to go in the first quarter.
“They played with a lot of emotion and they were really well prepared, really well coached and their new pieces suited them very well,” Duke head coach John Danowski said of the Dolphins.
Duncan Clancy (2g, 3a), Dakota Rohlin (3g), and Tom Moore (2g, 1a), challenged Duke goalkeeper Kyle Turri (2 saves) as part of 27-shot offensive effort that was impressive and tenacious.
Facing a three-goal deficit, the Blue Devils finally put together a seven-goal scoring run early in the second quarter and solved the problem that DeLuca had become early on.
Duke found the soft spots in the Jacksonville defense to get better shot selection from five different scorers including Cohan, Wolf, Kyle Keenan (2g, 2a), Myles Jones (2g), and Christian Walsh (1g)
Duke led 7-3 with 2:46 remaining in the opening half.
“We wanted to come out flyin’ – I think it was just kind of a reality check,” Dionne said of falling behind early.
“Coach Danowski rallied the troops and kind of gave us some time to catch our breath and said – “okay, we’re gonna’ be okay.”
“Then we kind of went to our senior leaders like Jordan and Luke (Duprey) and they dialed us in, and we played Duke lacrosse.”
The Dolphins didn’t roll over and added two more goals and trailed the Blue Devils 7-5 by halftime.
Duke’s faceoff specialist Brendan Fowler won 18-of-28 at the X as he battled Jet Harding (10-26) most of the game and eventually got his rhythm on the draw going to help his team establish possession.
“It’s a team game,” Danowski said.
“Each piece complements the other. When on the offense you start winning faceoffs, the offense starts putting the ball in the back of the net and the defense can relax a little bit. Vice versa, if you don’t win faceoffs, you’re constantly on defense and maybe you do tighten up.”
Defensively, the Blue Devils effectively caused Jacksonville to turn the ball over 21 times throughout the game, and won the ground ball game 46-25 which helped to execute a flawless clearing game in transition.
After adjusting from a slow start in all areas of the field during the first half, Duke’s remaining challenge was to avoid taking undisciplined penalties during the final two quarters of play.
Even though the Blue Devils outscored Jacksonvile 9-5 during that span, they provided ample EMO’s for the Dolphins to stay close and potentially turn the game around.
However, offensive turnovers left the Dolphins with a 1-for-5 success rate in that area, and minimized their chances to get any closer to the Blue Devils for the rest of the game.