DURHAM, N.C. – The sixth-ranked Duke Blue Devils defeated the 13th-ranked Harvard Crimson 21-14 at the West Campus Turf Fields on Saturday.
Attackman Justin Guterding’s nine-point (6 goals, 3 assists) performance led a group of eight different Duke scorers, while goalkeeper Luke Aaron made nine saves to earn his fourth win of the season.
Equally impressive scoring production from Jack Bruckner (4 goals) and Chad Cohan (3 goals) along with multiple goal performances from Myles Jones, Deemer Class, and Tanner Scott provided the bulk of scoring for Duke.
Devan Dwyer, Will Walker, and Deke Burns all posted two goals apiece for Harvard to go along with a valiant effort in goal from Jake Gambitsky who made 14 saves in 55 minutes of playing time.
While its home field at Koskinen Stadium was covered in snow, Duke hosted its Ivy League opponent on its artificial surface practice field in front of 414 supporters watching from outside the fenced perimeter.
The location didn’t matter.
After having last week’s game at Stony Brook postponed due a winter storm that didn’t allow the team to fly from Baltimore to Long Island, Duke (4-1) had an extra week of practice to prepare for Harvard (1-1).
However, snow in the area didn’t make it a perfect situation for the Blue Devils to prepare under.
“We practiced indoors a couple of days, we missed a day,” head coach John Danowski said.
“That doesn’t help the momentum in terms of practice, but I think our guys handled that.”
Having only played one game previously, the Crimson seemed ready to face the defending national champions, but their endurance level eventually fell short of the Blue Devils’.
Last season, both teams combined for 28 goals as Duke beat Harvard 17-11, and held a 13-4 advantage in the two programs’ all-time series coming into Saturday’s matchup.
It was expected that this would be another high-scoring contest between the two NCAA tournament teams – and it was.
In addition to piling up 35 total goals, they unleashed 100 shots combined towards each net, with the Blue Devils outshooting the Crimson 58-42.
Duke faceoff man Jack Rowe had a career day, winning 24-of-35 draws, as his wingmen helped to pushed the overall groundball game to Duke’s favor by a 55-29 margin.
Special teams play was critical for both teams as Harvard finished 2-of-4 in man-up situations, but picked up too many penalties and allowed Duke to finish 4-of-9 with EMO’s.
The final score didn’t represent the work Harvard put out to keep this one close, trailing 10-8 at halftime.
“They got that goal before the end of the half – it was a bit deflating,” Rowe said.
Down by five goals with 4:11 to play in the second quarter, the Crimson took advantage of repeated Duke turnovers and executed some impressive transition and fast break opportunities that resulted in an impressive 3-0 run.
However, that’s as close as Harvard would come for the rest of the game.
“I just think we got a little complacent,” Guterding added.
“We were scoring a lot of goals. Everyone was just really excited. Coach always tells us not to get too high, not to get too low. I think we got a bit too high, and then at halftime he settled us down and we came out strong.”
The Blue Devils tightened up in all areas defensively and then increased its lead to four goals, leading 14-10 by the end of the third quarter.
A seven-goal final quarter then capped off Duke’s effort even as a proud Crimson squad kept fighting until the end, scoring two of the game’s final three goals of the game – the last one coming with 26 seconds left.
“There’s this fine line between being confident and arrogant, thinking it’ll continually always be that easy,” Danowski said.
“Pick a sport – professional or college. Any team that gets a big lead, the other team makes a run, and then they just keep playin’. It’s hard to keep that focus and you have to learn to keep that focus. That’s a great lesson today.”