Peter Koutroumpis – email@example.com
DURHAM, N.C. – Midfielder Myles Jones set a career scoring high as the top-seeded and defending-champion Duke Blue Devils (14-3) dominated the Air Force Falcons in a 20-9 first-round win in the 2014 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship Tournament at Koskinen Stadium on Sunday.
Jones set a new career point-scoring level for himself as he helped to lead the Duke offense with three goals and five assists.
Eight other scorers kept the Duke offense in motion for almost the entire 60 minutes of play as attackmen Case Matheis and Jordan Wolf posted hat tricks, while Kyle Keenan, Deemer Class, Josh Dionne, Jack Bruckner, and Will Haus added doubles, and Seamus Connelly posted a single.
Duke goalkeepers Luke Aaron and Kyle Turri made a combined nine saves to earn the win while at the other end Air Force keepers Brett Dadiego and Doug Goushoe stopped 12 shots in the losing effort.
Coming into the game, Air Force (11-6) was expected to challenge Duke’s defense more than it was able to, averaging just over 11 goals per game and taking 41 shots per game, the same amount the Blue Devils averaged this season.
However, the Falcons offense didn’t get the ball in their crosses enough during the first half because the Blue Devils dominated possession time and used it to put together an overwhelming 12-3 lead by halftime.
Faceoff specialist Brendan Fowler and his wing mates controlled ground ball possession off the draw to set up Duke’s offense early and often.
Erik Smith and Bryan Price combined for a 12 of 30 success rate at the faceoff X against Fowler who finished the game winning 17 of 28 draws.
“Maybe it wasn’t a great matchup for us,” Air Force head coach Eric Seremet said.
“We have confidence in our two guys and we’ve been doing well, on and off all year, and it depends on the matchup. It just wasn’t a great matchup for us tonight.”
Duke’s ability to gain possessions on ground ball situations by a 40-28 margin made the difference throughout the game.
From there, Jones and his teammates picked their spots from all points while facing a man-on-man defense – at X, goal line extended, and the top corners – to drive, dodge and score goals.
They posted a quick 5-2 lead by the end of the first quarter.
“All week we worked on dodge with our head up,” Jones said.
“We wanted to get away from selfish play and start filling the net up as a team. You can’t really get 20 goals by yourself or with one or two guys. Getting everybody involved was awesome.”
Led by Eric Crampton’s three goal and one assist performance along with Tommy McKee’s two goals, Air Force worked to keep pace with Duke.
McKee scored to bring the Duke lead down to 5-3 with 13:36 remaining in the second quarter, but Jones helped to spark a seven-goal run that put the game out of reach for the Falcons.
“In a game like that, you gotta’ try and look for answers,” Seremet said of making defensive adjustments during the second half.
“We tried to mix it up by putting in zone, trying to maybe throw them off rhythm, trying to get a few possessions out of it. We tried to finds some answers to help slow them down.”
It seemed as though Air Force found some answers during the second half, being outscored only 8-6, but they had fallen too far behind to mount any sort of a comeback.
If it wasn’t Jones, Matheis, or Wolf who the Falcons defense had to contend with, there was Dionne, Class, Haus, and Keenan to keep the Blue Devils scoring pace up.
“Duke is a very good lacrosse team,” Seremet said.
“You can’t focus all your energy on one person. They move the ball well, they move the ball quickly. You don’t have to pick one guy to focus your energy on. Duke can attack you from a lot of different angles with a lot of different people.”
While the Blue Devils extended their home unbeaten streak to 10 games this season, not having lost a game at Koskinen since last March, the rest of the road they must travel to make an unprecedented eighth consecutive NCAA Final Four appearance will continue away from Durham.
The Blue Devils will now prepare to face the unseeded Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, 14-8 winners over eighth-seeded Virginia, in the quarterfinals to be played at Delaware Stadium in Newark, Del. on Sunday.
“You’re gonna’ have to play four really good teams to be successful in this tournament – whoever advances,” Duke head coach John Danowski said.
“Next week we play one of the most fabled programs in the history of our sport; a great coaching staff, a Hall of Fame coach, great players who will be really hungry.”