Fitting Finish: Crotty, Clausen Tango to the End
by Paul Krome | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff
NCAA DIVISION I SEMIFINALS: DUKE 14, VIRGINIA
BALTIMORE, Md. -- The Tewaaraton Award Foundation couldn’t have scripted the end of Saturday’s Duke-Virginia NCAA semifinal any more to its liking.
Duke players celebrate Max Quinzani's game-winning goal with 12 seconds remaining in their NCAA semifinal win over Virginia.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com
Tie game. Less than a minute on the clock. The M&T Bank Stadium crowd of 44,389 on its feet, eyes fixated on two finalists for perhaps the sport’s most revered individual award.
Duke attackman Ned Crotty and Virginia defenseman Ken Clausen didn’t disappoint.
Later, they each would say how much they relished playing against the best, but the game-long matchup’s final act played out in a delightful display of footwork, stickwork, prodding and patience.
In the end, Crotty shook free from Clausen just long enough to find a cutting Max Quinzani for the game-winning goal with 12 seconds left, delivering the Blue Devils a 14-13 win and the chance to play for the NCAA title for a third time in six seasons.
“That last goal, to just cap that emotional roller coaster off – and it was us getting that goal instead of them,” Crotty said. “We’ve definitely been on the other side of it. It’s a great feeling.”
That feeling began after a Duke timeout with 1:06 left, when Crotty used a pick to get behind the cage – sans Clausen for one of the few times all game.
“They set a pick from that deep corner and I got hung up and had to go in front of the goal,” Clausen said.
“Part of the play that was designed was just the pick. After that it was a freelance thing,” Crotty said.
“It was Ned’s show,” Quinzani said. “We were confident with him having the ball.”
Facing a dangerous feeder, Clausen and goalie Adam Ghitelman essentially split the crease in two, either one prepared to jump Crotty should he circle the cage.
“Kenny and Ghitelman did a good job of playing the two-man game with me. I tried to play a little cat-and-mouse,” Crotty said.
Crotty tried Ghitelman’s side first – perhaps the lesser of two evils. No dice. Ghitelman delivered a hit behind goal-line extended. Crotty staggered, but the blow wasn’t enough to dislodge the ball. He kept his feet and reset.
“Adam did a great job of blocking him from getting to the net. We scrambled back together,” Clausen said.
Crotty doubled back and tried Clausen’s side. As time ticked away, the results were predictable.
“Ken did a good job of forcing me away. From that point on I started surveying the field,” Crotty said.
As Clausen, who until then limited Crotty to just a goal and an assist, poked and pushed, Crotty cradled and looked, cradled and looked.
“I thought Ned was very poised in continuing to carry the ball,” Duke coach John Danowski said.
Tick, tick, tick. Finally, a break.
Blue Devil Zach Howell set a screen on Cavalier defenseman Ryan Nizolek, getting enough of the senior to allow Quinzani room for a cut from the opposite side of the field.
“Max never stopped moving in front of the cage. That’s what you never stop doing when you have a guy hung,” Danowski said.
Crotty: “I saw Max cut, and it was a spot feed. He was there on time, and you saw the rest.”
Clausen: “He put that pass on the money. They made a great play when it counted.”
Quinzani caught the feed in stride, ignored Nizolek’s trail and beat Ghitelman for the winner.
For Duke, it was a thrilling conclusion to a game of runs. For Virginia, the end of a torturous season. For Crotty and Clausen, a fitting 54-second showdown to conclude a matchup for the ages.
All that was left was a tip of the cap.
“I wished him good luck and told him I’d see him in a few days at the Tewaaraton banquet,” Clausen said.
There’ll be no surprise if that meeting goes down to the wire, either.
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