DURHAM, N.C. – The defending-champion Duke Blue Devils ensured that they would not suffer consecutive losses to the 16th-ranked Penn Quakers.
Attackmen Josh Dionne (3g), Jordan Wolf (3g), and Case Matheis (2g) loaded Duke’s offense on the front end while defenseman Chris Hipps added the remaining marker in a tightly contested matchup at Koskinen Stadium on Friday.
“It was their senior class versus our senior class,” Dionne said.
“It was good to get a win in our backyard. I just give a lot of credit to our team for that one.”
It was a payback result that the Blue Devils (3-0) handed an experienced Quakers (0-1) squad for a 14-9 loss last year at Franklin Field.
Following a spirited 14-10 win over then fourth-ranked Denver last weekend, the Blue Devils had to play with more poise on offense against Penn team that had really done their homework in preparing to defend them from all points within the box.
For the Quakers, facing off against the top-ranked team in the country was as big and as good a test to have for a season-opener as Zack Losco scored two goals and led four others who posted their names to the score sheet in the losing effort.
“I thought we played great in a couple of areas,” Penn head coach Mike Murphy said.
“The defense is pretty solid and made them earn most of their goals…It felt like we were playing some pretty good offense and generating some offense and generated some decent shots.”
After making a career-high nine saves against the Pioneers, Duke goalkeeper Luke Aaron made his first career start and recorded 11 saves to earn his second win of the season.
It wasn’t the cleanest looking game in terms of ball possession as both teams committed a combined 45 turnovers.
However, it was Duke who won the battle for ground balls, scooping a total of 39 of them to eventually initiate a more effective transition game, particularly after a tough first quarter in which Penn’s ride created numerous clearing problems.
“We struggled in handling the ball on the defensive end,” Duke head coach John Danowski said.
“They did a good job jumping. They were jumping from an attackman to that midfielder. Then we did a good job of recognizing that and threw the ball over the top a couple of times…It was Penn’s pressure. Penn did a nice job of giving us a look that we really hadn’t practiced for.”
Duke’s Brendan Fowler once again dominated his opponents and won 14 of the 19 faceoffs he took.
Fowler’s effective work at the faceoff X gave the Blue Devils the ball enough to generate ample ball possession time to put balls past Quakers goalkeeper Brian Feeney when they needed to.
Both teams launched 33 shots apiece, and the range of shots on goal and misses alike kept Aaron and Feeney, who made 10 saves of his own, very busy throughout the game.
Trailing Duke 4-2 after the opening quarter, the Quakers managed to keep the Blue Devils scoreless during the second while scoring a goal with 10 seconds left on the clock to trail by one at halftime.
Penn’s disciplined defense kept Dionne and Wolf scoring intermittently during the first two quarters, but couldn’t keep pace after the experienced attackmen made adjustments to penetrate it.
“I kind of played a little more simple,” Dionne said.
“I think I was kind of moving around a little too much on the inside. Sometimes when you do that a little too much, you get in other people’s way. I slowed down and let the game come to me.”
As Dionne and Wolf combined outscored the Quakers 4-3 with two goals apiece during the second half the Blue Devils held on for another close win at home.
The only cause for concern for Duke to improve upon in future games was their lack of discipline in taking unforced and unnecessary penalties.
Penn went 3-for-5 with the EMO’s they were afforded, including a two-man advantage early in the game.
In the end, the Quakers managed to keep the Blue Devils offense to its lowest scoring total of the season.
Even though the Blue Devils didn’t shoot as well as they did in their two previous games, they added another hard-working win to their resume.
According to Danowski, it was an important step in preparing to play more teams that will present a tough and diligent defensive scheme as Penn did.
“They played hard,” Danowski said.
They’re very well coached and they had a plan and I thought it was a terrific game for us to see what we have (going forward).”