May 31, 2010

Duke Wins First NCAA Title in OT Thriller

by Paul Krome | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

NCAA DIVISION I CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: DUKE 6, NOTRE DAME 5 (OT)

* Duke Wins First NCAA Title in OT Thriller
* Irish's Rodgers Laments One That Got Away
* CJ's Shot Gives Duke Closure, Foundation
* McKee Brothers Go Out on Top
* NCAA Championships Blog

The first rule of Project Mayhem: don't ask questions.

* MD1 Tournament Central
* WD1 Tournament Central

Duke midfielder Steve Schoeffel, one of seven players remaining from the Blue Devils' 2006 team beset by rape allegations, gets a look on the cage Monday in the Blue Devils' NCAA championship game victory over Notre Dame. Schoeffel scored twice.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

BALTIMORE, Md. -- Three years later, Duke got a Hollywood ending, and in dramatic fashion the men’s lacrosse world finally crowned a new national champion.

Duke long-stick middie CJ Costabile beat Notre Dame senior Trever Sipperly for the overtime faceoff, scooped his own ground ball and fired a rocket past stalwart Irish goalie Scott Rodgers five seconds into overtime to lift the fifth-seeded Blue Devils to a 6-5 win and their first NCAA championship Monday before a paid crowd of 37,126 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Costabile raced down the middle of the field, saw Notre Dame poles Mike Creighton and Kevin Randall staying on their marks, evaded a last gasp by trailing wingman David Earl and beat Rodgers over his right shoulder from about 12 yards away five seconds into the extra frame, marking the fastest end to an overtime title game in NCAA tournament history, all divisions.

“It was a battle the whole game,” said Costabile, who won six of 10 faceoffs against Trever Sipperly and twice endured draws that lasted 25 seconds or more. “I just got my hands in there and pulled the ball out really quick. My wings did a great job allowing me to get that ground ball easily.”

Duke becomes the first new NCAA Division I men’s champion since Princeton in 1992.

Costabile’s winner was a notable blemish on an otherwise legendary performance by NCAA tournament Most Outstanding Player Rodgers, who finished the final with 15 saves and the four-game tournament with 53. Rodgers correctly stepped to his right, but went more low than high.

“You don’t know what you’re looking for because he’s got a 6-foot pole in his hands and he could put it low on you or he could bring it up top,” Rodgers said. “We had two guys chasing back. That’s the kind of shot you don’t want to see if you’re a goalie.”

Rodgers saw plenty throughout the game, though, and he and backfield mates Kevin Ridgway, Mike Creighton and Kevin Randall turned in yet another stellar effort to render the NCAA’s second-leading offense (13.83 goals per game as of May 23) virtually impotent. Creighton and Ridgway turned Max Quinzani and Ned Crotty into relative non-factors (one assist each, eight total shots), respectively, and the Fighting Irish switched on picks with their usual quickness.

“Defensively, it didn’t matter what size stick they had, they were phenomenal on the ball, phenomenal as a unit, and then if you could get an opening, Scott Rodgers – just terrific,” Duke coach John Danowski said at the top of the postgame press conference.

The final play was among only a handful of transition opportunities for the Blue Devils, as Notre Dame gladly lulled another opponent into a boring affair – this one resulting in the fewest combined goals in the history of the NCAA Division I championship game. Junior middie Zach Brenneman supplied much of his team’s offense with three goals, but he alone couldn’t solve the Irish’s most glaring problem: they couldn’t shoot worth a lick. Notre Dame put just 10 of 31 shots on freshman goalie Dan Wigrizer.

“We just shot the ball horribly today,” said Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan. “Their guy makes five saves and we don’t put but 10 shots on him. That’s on us.”

The game was tied at every interval leading to the final score. Four minutes into the final frame, Crotty threw the ball away (one of his four turnovers), and the Fighting Irish converted a rare fast break when Earl fed Sean Rogers on the right wing for a 5-4 lead that stirred the heat-sapped crowd. But with 8:44 to play, Justin Turri took advantage of rare lapses by Randall and Rodgers, breaking free from the defenseman to convert a feed from Zach Howell (2g, 1a) and beat the goalie through the five-hole.

The Blue Devils had more opportunities in the final minutes, but couldn’t solve Rodgers (six saves in the period). The Irish even survived a curious in-and-out call against LSM Andrew Irving with 14 seconds left after he scooped a ground ball near the crease. Earl challenged Turri on a last-second shot that sailed well wide, setting the stage for overtime.

“We executed our game plan pretty well,” Ridgway said. “I thought we could beat ‘em. As Coach said, we came up one play short. It’s kind of a bummer.”

Corrigan praised the graduating fifth-year senior Rodgers and lamented his placement of the faceoff wingmen on the final play, wondering if a more defensive posture would’ve helped. But the emotion of the Fighting Irish players after this tough loss probably pales in comparison to what Duke’s well-publicized fifth-year seniors felt here in 2007 – when their 12-11 loss to Johns Hopkins unleashed a flood of emotion from a team still dealing with the fallout of false rape allegations against three players in 2006.

Then, a drained Danowski fought through tears to say, “This is not Hollywood. There are no storybook endings for these kids.”

Monday, Danowski again welled up, but only slightly. He relished the opportunity to finally put that saga to bed.

“You know what’s really cool, as an educator, Zack Greer, Matt Danowski, and Tony McDevitt were all crying. Zack Greer spent a year at Bryant, but he’s a Duke guy. They were all crying. It meant so much to them. For me, same thing. It’s been a very emotional time, but a very cool time. This is what we do, why we do what we do. To see how much these guys cared – there was so much emotion those first two years. People have no idea. These are young men trying to act as if everything is OK, but they were hurting. For them to walk on that field today and feel good, even though they’re not here – sometimes when you leave a place, you don’t want that team to do well because you think, ‘They can’t do it without me.’ There’s not a bone in those guys’ bodies that feels that way.”

A reporter asked if the sports world could now stop talking about the subject.

“I hope so. I will.”


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