May 20, 2012

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Duke Relaxes, Then Drops Hammer on Colgate

by Matt Forman | LaxMagazine.com | TwitterLive Blog Replay

Henry Lobb limited Colgate's Peter Baum to one goal and Duke made it difficult for the Raiders to generate offense by winning the ground ball and faceoff battles.
© Kevin P. Tucker 

CHESTER, Pa. — Duke found itself down 4-2 more than 10 minutes into a battle with Colgate, and the Blue Devils' streak of five straight final four appearances was suddenly on shaky standing.

Ryan Walsh's lefty laser from 12 yards beat Dan Wigrizer on a play created by Tewaaraton finalist Peter Baum, who picked off a pass near the midline and pushed early offense. Walsh's goal put Duke on its heels and energized the Colgate crowd. Raiders fans in attendance jumped up and down and chanted to the techno sounds of Zombie Nation.

Duke coach John Danowski called timeout with 3:58 remaining in the first quarter. He had a simple message: Relax.

It resonated. Two hours later, Danowski smiled in the post-game press conference when he said, "I didn't think [the timeout] would have that outcome, for sure."

Nor did many of the 10,770 fans at PPL Park who witnessed Duke's 17-6 dismissal of Colgate in the NCAA men's lacrosse quarterfinals Sunday. After the timeout, the Blue Devils asserted themselves and could not be stopped. The 11-goal margin of victory was the largest in the quarterfinals since Virginia's 19-8 win over Johns Hopkins in 2009.

"We always talk about, 'Listen, at the beginning of this game, you're going to hyperventilate.' You can't catch your breath and everything is moving really fast," Danowski said. "So we say, 'Slow down. Take a deep breath. And play.' That was really it. There was no strategy. There was no nothing. There was no yelling or screaming. Let's go back and play."

Play Duke did. It dug in and went to work, scoring 13 straight goals and controlling every aspect of the game. Over the next two quarters Duke out-shot Colgate 25-15, won 25-of-39 ground balls and 11-of-16 faceoffs.

Senior midfielder Rob Rotanz, who scored a career-high five goals during the stretch, might have put it best: "Momentum is a funny thing."

"We knew going in they scored a lot of goals in the second and third quarter, and they did it again to us," Colgate coach Mike Murphy said.

Duke has outscored its opponents in the second and third quarters by a combined score of 133-80 this season. That's why when Danowski called timeout, Duke just needed to "take a deep breath and regain focus," said senior midfielder Justin Turri, who had four points in the victory.

"For the first quarter, we did exactly what we wanted. We jumped out, scored four goals. That's what we wanted to do: start fast. Then in the second quarter there, we didn't get the ball a lot. We had a few turnovers, and the wheels kind of fell off. They kind of buried us in the second quarter," said Baum, who scored one goal on 11 shots. "Against a team this good, if you give them a chance like that, they can streak some goals together. That's what they did. Being an attackman, standing at the midline watching, it's tough."

The Blue Devils advanced to the NCAA semifinals for the sixth consecutive season, where they will face the Atlantic Coast Conference rival Maryland in a rematch of last season's semifinal matchup, won by the Terps.

Meanwhile, Danowski joined Syracuse's John Desko as the only coaches in Division I history to lead a team to the final four in the first six seasons of his tenure at that school.

"One of the things I learned my first year at Duke was you've got to really live for today," Danowski said. "You don't look forward and you don't look back. You can't help what happened in the past, and you can't really control the future. Just now. That was a great lesson for me as a coach. We kind of approach every week, every season and every game that way. We don't look back."

"That's for historians or somebody else to look back and draw whatever conclusions they want to have. We're just involved in having fun, and really enjoying being with this group. One of the themes for us, as always, we get to be together for another week. Sometimes that trumps winning. It sounds silly, but sometimes you say, 'I don't know what I want more: For the season not to end, or to win.' We do love these kids."

The loss ended Colgate's record-breaking season, in which the Raiders won their first ever NCAA tournament game. But it was clear this wasn't the same team that beat Maryland two weeks ago. As Colgate coach said Mike Murphy said on the ESPNU telecast to Paul Carcaterra coming out of halftime: "I don't know who my team is right now ... We challenged their manhood."

Colgate just ran into the Duke buzzsaw. Christian Walsh tallied a hat trick, while Jordan Wolf, Jake Tripucka and David Lawson each scored twice. Henry Lobb shut off Baum — the nation's leading scorer tallied one goal — and the defense caused 23 turnovers. And Tewaaraton finalist CJ Costabile picked up what Danowski described as an "unheard of number of ground balls: 15."

Trailing early, Duke didn't put any pressure on itself. It just exhaled. The experience of playing on this stage for the last five years had to help, right?

"Bill Tierney once told me about institutional memory, that the kids don't really have any year to year," Danowski said. "And I don't know that our guys have any institutional memory from last year's tournament. But I do think they have memory from this year — from playing at Loyola, from playing at Notre Dame, from playing the ACC Tournament at Virginia, at Virginia, playing Syracuse at home. I do think the experience they've gained this year ... will prepare them as well as possible for Saturday."


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