HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Their play was on an upward slope, but the Duke Blue Devils were unable to get a proper hold of the third-ranked and seeded Ohio State Buckeyes on Saturday.
Led by senior attackman Eric Fannell’s five goals and two assists, the Buckeyes posted a 16-11 win over sixth-ranked Duke in 2017 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse quarterfinal-round play at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
The loss ended the Blue Devils’ season at 13-5 overall while Ohio State (15-4) advanced to its first-ever Final Four weekend.
Trailing 2-1 following the opening quarter, it wasn’t just a game that got away from the Blue Devils, but one in which they didn’t claim an early lead following ample opportunities to do so.
Ohio State weathered Duke’s shot attempts and then asserted itself during the second period, and carried a 9-4 lead into the halftime break.
Consecutive penalties committed by Duke enabled the Buckeyes to post a 5-1 run to end the half.
It was an advantage that the Buckeyes never relinquished.
“We certainly want to tip our caps to Ohio State for an outstanding effort this afternoon,” Duke head coach John Danowski said.
“Their physicality was something we were aware of, but they won individual battles against us today.”
While attackmen Justin Guterding (2 goals, 2 assists) and Jack Bruckner (3 goals, 1 assist) led Duke up front, and even with a 45-31 margin in shots taken and winning the ground ball game 34-29, it wasn’t enough.
Ohio State goalkeeper Tom Carey made 11 saves, including critical denials during the opening and final quarters that neutralized the Blue Devils offense.
Danny Fowler made seven saves for Duke in the losing effort, one in which Buckeyes faceoff specialist Jake Wither’s 11 ground balls following 17-of-28 wins off the draw over Kyle Rowe (12-28, 5 GB) fueled a diversified Ohio State offensive output that involved eight different scorers.
Though winning the final quarter by a 6-3 margin, Duke was unable to overcome the initial deficit that it faced.
“The team has played hard all year, but today skill-wise was disappointing,” Danowski said.
“The guys kind of relaxed after the third quarter and continued to play hard, but I thought overall they played tight.”
It was the Blue Devils’ second loss to the Buckeyes in NCAA postseason play over the past three years following back-to-back title wins in 2013 and 2014.