May 18, 2014

Duke Downs Jays to Make Eighth Straight Final Four

by Gary Lambrecht | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Jordan Wolf scored four of his five goals in the second half, when Johns Hopkins close with within two. But the Blue Devils pulled away with a 19-11 win. (Kevin P. Tucker)
 

NEWARK, Del. – There was a time not that long ago when an NCAA playoff game pitting Duke against Johns Hopkins produced drama and excitement and typically yielded a close decision.

Until further notice, those days are gone.

In Sunday's NCAA quarterfinals at Delaware Stadium, unseeded Johns Hopkins, a year removed from missing its first tournament since 1971, thought it had enough offensive weaponry to score with the top-seeded Blue Devils and hoped it would not run into too many bad matchups on defense.

The Blue Jays put up a spirited fight – after surrendering the game's first six goals – but in the end they were wrong on both counts.

With its systematic, 19-11 whipping of Hopkins, the Blue Devils, who got a game-high five goals from senior attackman Jordan Wolf and seven points from 6-feet-4 sophomore midfield sensation Myles Jones, proved to be same unstoppable force they have been for the past two months and have been throughout much of the eight-season era under coach John Danowski.

For the eighth consecutive year, defending national champion Duke is back on familiar ground in the tournament semifinals. The Blue Devils, who will face no. 5 seed Denver on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, are in hot pursuit of their third NCAA title in the past five seasons.

"We're never satisfied. Nineteen goals? We're look back at the film and see we could have scored 23," said Wolf, who scored four of his five goals in the second half, when the Blue Jays closed to within 12-10 six minutes into the second half. "Our heads are up, getting ready for the next opponent. There are no guarantees."

Remember the vintage, postseason days of Hopkins-Duke? In 2005 and 2007, the Blue Jays edged the Blue Devils in one-goal affairs that decided the national championship. In 2008, Duke blew out the Blue Jays in the regular season, only to drop a one-goal decision to Hopkins in the NCAA tournament semifinals.

Since then, the schools have not played in the regular season, and Hopkins, which has not been to a final four since 2008, has lost sizeable ground to the Blue Devils. In their last meeting, Duke drilled Hopkins by 13 goals in the first round of the 2010 tournament. That marked Duke's first step toward its first title.

In Sunday's rematch, not everything went according to the script for a Duke (15-3) team that has won 11 of its last 12 games and averaged 17.1 goals while doing it. For starters, sophomore Deemer Class, the team's second-leading scorer and first Duke midfielder ever to reach 60 points in a season, was shut out.

The most unexpected and unfortunate change came in the closing seconds of the first half. Senior attackman Josh Dionne, whose four goals had given Duke a major spark, took a vicious – and legal – hit from Hopkins midfielder Rob Guida. Dionne was preparing to finish a fast break, as he sprinted toward the Hopkins goals with the ball in his stick, before Guida closed hard from his left, about eight yards from the net.

Dionne lay on the field for several minutes, before being helped to the Duke locker room. Dionne did not return, although he showed up at the postgame press conference on crutches with his right leg in a soft cast, the victim of a likely, season-ending knee injury.

"I didn't see the hit coming. I was staring at the corner of the net," Dionne said. "It's one of those things. I sacrificed my body for this team, and I know everybody in that locker room would do the same thing. No matter what happens, I'm going to give as much as I can on the field or the sidelines. It will be a bit like an internship in coaching."

With and without Dionne, Duke simply had too many athletes and too much skill for Hopkins (11-5) to match. Besides jumping out to a 6-0 lead – with five different scorers doing the damage – the Blue Devils beat Hopkins to 37 of 56 ground balls, shot 19-for-44 (43.2 percent) and recorded assists on 13 of their 19 goals.

Case Matheis (three goals, two assists), Christian Walsh (2, 1) and Kyle Keenan (2, 1) complemented Wolf and Jones, who was nightmare to cover with three goals and four assists.

"Knowing [Duke] and defending them are two different things," Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala said. "Not only are they really talented athletically, their IQ is outstanding. The challenge is they force you to defend all six of them for the entire possession."

How deep are the Blue Devils? They scored eight goals before Wolf had found the back of the net to give Duke a 9-3 lead with 12:09 left in the first half. With Wolf and Class combining for one goal in the first half, the Blue Devils still went into halftime with a 12-8 lead.

Hopkins, which got hat tricks from Guida and midfielder Holden Cattoni and 10 saves from goalie Eric Schneider, got back into the game in the first half with the help of LSM Mike Pellegrino. He won six of 11 faceoff attempts after relieving Drew Kennedy, who struggled early against Duke's Brendan Fowler.

Cattoni, who started a 3-0 Hopkins run that ended the first half, scored on back-to-back goals off of assists from Connor Reed (1, 4) to pull the Blue Jays to within 12-10 with 9:16 left in the third quarter.

That goal knocked out Duke goalie Luke Aaron, who was replaced by Kyle Turri. But Duke soon would snap a scoreless streak that had grown to 17 minutes, as Wolf scored twice to make it 14-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

That was the beginning of a game-ending, 7-1 run. Fowler regained control at the faceoff X. Hopkins could barely find the cage against Turri, who made just one save and saw only two shots on goal in the game's final 24 minutes. And Wolf, Jones and Matheis engineered a 5-0 punch-out in the final nine minutes.

"This game scared the heck out of us. We knew it was going to be a 60-minute battle on every level," Danowski said. "We knew [Hopkins] had terrific shooters and was going to make a run, and we gave up some goals. But our guys withstood the run and played with tremendous poise and maturity."


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