NCAA Lacrosse 2014: Duke’s Dionne understands give and take in the game

Peter Koutroumpis – editor@trianglesportsnet.com

DURHAM, N.C. – Josh Dionne knows how to give and take shots.

The senior Duke Blue Devils attackman recently scored four goals to help put his team back into the 2014 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship Tournament semifinals, beating the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays 19-11 on Sunday.

At the same time he picked open spots on the cage during the game, he also took a hit late in the first half that denied him the opportunity to score even more goals.

He suffered a knee injury while taking a shot on goal, being hit awkwardly at the same time as his right leg planted on the field while finishing the follow-through on his patented left-handed release.

That situation may have kept him out of the rest of the game and eventually for the rest of season physically, but not mentally.

“The way I’m lookin’ at it is, I gave my body to the team,” Dionne said following the game.

“That’s all you could ask for and I know anyone in there would do the same thing. If that means movin’ on, I would gladly do it again. Now, it’s coach Dionne, here I come – just do all I can to help the boys out.”

Leading up to the Hopkins game, Dionne sat out from practice during the early part of the week to rest and recover following the Blue Devils’ 20-9 opening-round win over Air Force.

He wasn’t in full equipment on the field, but he was fully engaged in practice from the sideline, watching every aspect of it.

It’s just who he is as a player and student of the game as well as a person.

“Josh has always been a huge fan of lacrosse,” Blue Devils assistant coach Matt Danowski said.

“Whether he’s just watching it or doing stick tricks or shooting – whatever it is, he loves lacrosse.”

Many people assume that accomplished college athletes like Dionne specialized in their sport from a young age and rarely strayed from it in order to play at the Division 1 level.

However, the lacrosse standout from New England who was a big part of earning last year’s NCAA championship title with the Blue Devils and has put them on track to do that same this season, credited his experience playing hockey and soccer to deepening his desire to excel in the fastest game on two feet.

“When I was younger, certainly not,” Dionne said of envisioning winning an NCAA title in lacrosse.

“It was NHL all the way,” the former hockey goaltender said.

“Then reality sets in of me being five-foot-seven. The funny part is I would be in my backyard shooting – and hockey practices go on late at night – I would get home in New Hampshire and I would shoot in my backyard at 2 a.m. It’s funny because I would always think, ‘oh, (I’m) Matt Danowki, I’m Zack Greer’. You just have that envisioned in your head. It was kind of like the goal, the subconscious goal that, ‘I wanna’ be at Duke, I wanna’ be at Duke’.

When told that Dionne mentioned him as a role model whom he looked up to while working on his game in high school, Danowski pointed out that it wasn’t as much about what he and others did as individuals that younger players look up to, but more about what makes the Blue Devils’ style of game so attractive to them.

“I think it speaks more about how Duke plays lacrosse,” Danowksi said.

“We play an up and down fast-paced style and I think it’s attractive to a kid. We have our own certain style and everybody we put on the field has the ability to make a play. The way we play is attractive, so I’m sure kids are saying in the backyard right now that they wanna’ be Josh Dionne. At the end of the day, we play team-style lacrosse and everybody can get their fair share.”

To date, the Blue Devils have eight players with double-digit goal scoring totals, and six of them have tallied 20-plus goals.

Dionne sits fourth on the overall list with 56 points, but is second only to team scoring leader Jordan Wolf with 49 goals.

He is an integral part of an offense that’s averaged 15 goals per game, and he leads the team with four game-winning goals.

He’s a valuable and important asset to his team and will be a part of winning another championship team at Duke, on the field or on the sideline.

Even though he won’t physically be able to help his team win another title to finish his collegiate career, he will be involved in doing it in some way regardless.

That was his goal when he committed to play with the Blue Devils four years ago.

“I wanted to win a championship,” Dionne said.

“As a senior class, going to four straight Final Four’s is pretty monumental, but I’m not surprised because this is why we came here. We knew Coach Danowski could get us this far and we take great pride in that.”

If the Blue Devils can finish the season with two more wins this weekend in Baltimore, Dionne will walk away from Duke with not just one, but two championships rings in his possession.