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Blue Devils survive fourth quarter rally to advance to Sunday’s championship
PHILADELPHIA – Fourth-seeded Duke jumped out to a big lead and withstood a late comeback attempt to defeat top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Notre Dame, 13-8, Friday night in the semifinals of the 2015 ACC Men’s Lacrosse Championship at PPL Park.
Case Matheis led the way for Duke with four goals on seven shots, with Justin Guterding adding three goals in a rematch of the 2014 NCAA National Championship game. With the win, the Blue Devils improved to 11-4 and avenged a 15-10 regular season loss to the Irish on April 4.
“It’s awesome,” said Matheis on reaching the championship game. “In my first two years we lost in the semis. Those games are turning points in that they were losses. This time we won and it’s another turning point in building our confidence and building our team dynamic.”
After Duke withstood an early barrage from Notre Dame to start the contest, the two teams were held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season.
The Blue Devils came out firing to start the second quarter. Matheis scored 41 seconds after the break, followed by one from Kyle Keenan just over a minute later. Matheis quickly added his second of the game to give Duke a 3-0 lead 3:19 into the quarter.
Nick Ossello got the Irish on the board with 8:58 remaining in the half. Matt Kavanagh found Ossello slashing through the Duke defense, and the senior bounced a shot past goalkeeper Danny Fowler.
Goals from Myles Jones and Justin Guterding gave Duke a 5-1 lead going into halftime.
The Blue Devils opened the third quarter with a five-goal run to break the game open. Jack Bruckner started the run, followed by the third of the game for Matheis. Keenan, Guterding, and Will Haus all found the back of the net to push the lead to 10-1 in favor of Duke before Mikey Wynne ended the drought for Notre Dame.
After Duke’s Matheis scored his fourth of the evening with 12:04 remaining to push the lead to 12-2, Notre Dame’s offense got rolling. Sergio Perkovic, Jack Near, Will Corrigan, and Ossello scored four times within 3:08 to bring the Irish to within six.
Another tally from Perkovic and a goal by Matt Kavanagh made it 12-8 with 4:14 remaining. The Irish then went on a fulltime extra man opportunity with a chance to draw closer late, but two big saves from Fowler and a goal from Guterding sealed the victory for the Blue Devils.
With the loss, Notre Dame fell to 9-2 and will await news on a bid to the NCAA Championship.
“I think early in the game we had about five great chances and came up empty on those,” said Notre Dame head coach Kevin Corrigan. “We just didn’t play good offense after that for an extended period of time.”
Notre Dame outshot Duke 38-32, while the Blue Devils held a 44-30 edge in ground balls. Kyle Rowe was 14-of-19 on faceoffs the Duke.
Fowler (4-2) made 12 saves in net in the win for Duke, while Shane Doss (8-2) stopped five shots in the loss.
Duke Head Coach John Danowski
On the team’s improvement…
“We are probably as healthy as we have been all year, and so the combination of groups and individuals getting better. This is game number seven that Case Matheis, Justin Guterding and Jack Bruckener are playing together. You can see the look for each other and they play well together. Defensively, we are kind of mixing and matching, this is Danny Fowler’s fifth game as a starter. He was a redshirt freshman and the first game of his career was North Carolina, and then it was Notre Dame, then Virginia. So I think there is combination of those things, the experience we are getting and that we are getting a bit healthier.”
On the play of Danny Fowler…
“Danny is playing goalie in a modern age. It’s not easy in this conference. There are such dynamic players. Notre Dame has such great players, so you are never quite sure if it is the goalies fault or if it’s your defense, or if you just have to tip your cap to your opponent at times. Danny certainly looked like a big time veteran goalie today.”
Duke Junior Attacker Case Matheis
On being back in the ACC Championship Game…
“It’s awesome. This is my first experience actually going to the ACC final. In my first two years we lost in the semis. Those games are turning points in that they were losses. This time we won and it’s another turning point in building our confidence and building our team dynamic.”
On Duke peaking late and improvement…
“This team has improved a lot. Coach Danowski stresses the youth in our team, especially our defense. We have a lot of sophomores, a couple freshmen and a few seniors sprinkled in, a couple freshmen in the mix. As far as our defense goes, this is the best I’ve ever seen them play today. The youth getting experience and our offense is starting to gel. We are all just starting to play together and get to know each other really well.”
On the 10-1 lead being unexpected…
“I don’t think it was unexpected as we always have confidence in ourselves. It was more a testament to our defense. It was 0-0 at the end of the first quarter and our defense still had confidence going forward we were going to play well. We just kept playing hard. It was a total team we. I don’t think anyone is surprised. We expect to play Duke Lacrosse and score goals.”
On ND’s defense and what was the turning point in the second quarter
“Notre Dame is a great defensive team. We were getting looks in the first quarter, we just had some turnovers. We knew at some point a goal or two would fall through and we would be able to build off that. It just happened for us in the second quarter. I can’t really put a word to it. We just played hard.”
Duke Sophomore Goalkeeper Danny Fowler
On Duke’s defense and him starting late…
I think all of us have improved. The defense had a bit of head start because I came in later, but just getting more experience each and every game. The college game is different, so I’m still adjusting to it a little bit. Every game I feel more and more confident. Defensively you can tell as no one is the same as the start of the season. We are coached very well and everyone has improved.”
On Notre Dame’s late rush…
“When I’m making saves, I’m usually not thinking too much. It’s when I’m thinking too much is when I’m not making saves. At the end I let in a bunch in a row. We need some stops and we were able to stop the bleeding.”
Notre Dame Head Coach Kevin Corrigan
“I don’t think we played well at all. Give Duke a lot of credit. I think early in the game we had about five great chances and came up empty on those. We just didn’t play good offense after that for an extended period of time. That’s on me. We did not come as well prepared as we needed to be today. We got beat by a team that played very well.”
On the team being stunned being down 10-1…
“You would have to ask them that. My focus at that point is making the next play. You aren’t going to come back in a nine-point play, so it is just about making the next play. I think that was our focus, but we sure didn’t do a good job for a long period of time.”
On the offense not playing well…
“I thought we had some sloppy turnovers. I thought we had some guys forcing things that just weren’t there. We played as though it was going to be easy. It wasn’t easy, we didn’t expect it to be. You don’t play a top six team and expect it to be easy. But that’s what it looked like. You can call it impatience. You can call it lack of good judgement. In plays we tried to make, we just forced too many things an gave a way too many possessions.”