Duke lacrosse sends seniors off in blaze of glory over Marquette

Chris Baird, Triangle Sports Network
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DURHAM, N.C. – After Duke senior midfielder Myles Jones opened the game’s scoring with a face dodge, a step forward and a shot , Marquette’s Kyran Clarke evened the score on a catch-and-shoot two minutes later.

It was the first and only time the 15th-ranked Golden Eagles (9-3) would celebrate scoring against the 16th-ranked Blue Devils (9-6) who strung together a 15-0 run for the rest of the game and finished their regular season schedule at Koskinen Stadium on Friday with a 16-1 senior night win for Jones and his graduating class.

Justin Guterding’s three goals and three assists along with Jack Bruckner’s four goals led a group of 10 goal scorers, mostly underclassmen,  in the dominating victory.

“They push us every single day,” Guterding said of the senior class.

“Myles, Deemer, Case, all those guys forced us to become great. They push us every single day at practice and we can’t thank them enough. Sending them out this way was the best feeling to have.”

The offensive surge that came about as the result of disciplined and effective defensive play gave Duke its second win in as many.

Scoring an average of 15 goals in both wins, Duke has played its style of game – efficient, consistent, and dominating at both ends of the field.

However, the inconsistency the Blue Devils have shown in losing close games at home this season may have legitimately put negative lingering thoughts in the minds of the 784 in attendance who sat through the rain-soaked matchup between the two programs.

Previous demoralizing losses at Koskinen to Richmond (12-10), Air Force (10-9 OT), and North Carolina (17-16 OT) stood as evidence to that mindset.

What actually happened was what has and is supposed to happen when teams play the Blue Devils on their home field – they get handed a loss and at times, a big one.

The Golden Eagles took theirs with dignity as head coach Joe Amplo gave his thoughts on what happened.

“They’re just better athletes,” Amplo said.

“Duke is better than Marquette at lacrosse, and that’s okay to say. It’s the simple and plain truth. You play those guys 10 times and maybe once or twice they don’t play their best, we play our best, and win. But right now, where we are after four years, I’m okay with saying that Duke is better than us, and that was completely evident tonight.”

The Hofstra grad, who played and was an assistant coach under Blue Devils head coach John Danowski when he led the Pride program before he came to Duke, thought his team just couldn’t develop any rhythm to its game.

“We were tryin’ to get in the flow,” Amplo added after seeing the Golden Eagles shut out for over three quarters.

“Those guys played a really good game tonight. The coaches have done a really great job of making that defense shine. They’ve improved tremendously and they handled us tonight all over the field. The score was deserving of the way those guys played.”

Duke put on its best defensive performance to date, one that led to an offensive barrage that allowed them to handily win their fourth consecutive game over the Golden Eagles.

Faceoff specialist Kyle Rowe won 10-of-15 draws over an equally accomplished draw man in Zachary Melillo (7-19), and helped the Blue Devils to win the ground ball game by a 35-21 margin.

“We put a huge emphasis on ground balls every week, but especially this week,” Danowski said.

“Coach Amplo and his team are a blue-collar work ethic team. We thought that if we could control the ball on the ground, we could have an opportunity to be successful.”

Goalkeepers Danny Fowler and Luke Aaron each finished with six saves while the defense in front of them posted nine caused turnovers.

A solid performance in the box as Danowski described it.

“There’s a certain relaxation when you get a three-goal lead or your goalie makes a save,” he said.

“Guys think that ‘alright, we can do this’ as opposed to pressing. I thought there was a tremendous balance between defense and offense tonight.”

For another night, that balance leveled off the tumultuous ebb and flow the Blue Devils have experienced while fighting to win games and to hopefully earn a spot in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

The graduating seniors know how to win.

After all, they hold two ACC regular season titles and the 2013 and 2014 NCAA titles to their credit.

However, their final season has been one of dealing with extreme adversity and the possibility of not making the postseason at all if they don’t put things in order heading into next week’s ACC tournament.

Be it by one goal or by 15, it was a win, and just that.

“It’s been an up-and-down season,” Jones said.

“Fifteen guys, 15 best friends with this last opportunity (to play) on Koskinen’s field. The younger guys really fought for us which we cherish here at Duke. It was special to see a game like that where we put it all together on all cylinders. Definitely proud of all the guys and the way they played and I couldn’t be happier with the win.”