Category Archives: NCAA Tournament

Austin One Step Closer to NCAA Title

At Wednesday’s NCAA Championship javelin trials at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, redshirt freshman John Austin came in 11th place out of 26 with a 211′-8″ toss. His finish landed him amongst the top-12 throwers, who move on from the preliminaries to the finals on Friday.

Austin, who set the Duke record earlier this season with his NCAA-qualifying 225′-5″ hurl in the NCAA East Regional on May 30, has a legitimate chance at the title—the longest mark of today’s preliminary came in at just under 230 feet. Even if Austin doesn’t capture the top spot, he can still go for a top-eight finish, which will garner him All-American status.

A throw of 229′-8″ would qualify him for the Olympic Trials.

—from staff reports

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Another Look Back: Hopkins 10, Duke 9

Inside Lacrosse, the mecca of online lacrosse coverage, has been rehashing the details of the 2008 college season and announced the “Top 10 Surprises” Wednesday. Not surprisingly, Duke’s loss to Johns Hopkins in the national semifinal made the list, coming in at No. 2, only behind national champion Syracuse’s turnaround season.

As we all know by this point, the Blue Devils decimated Hopkins 17-6 April 5, only to be slowed down offensively by the Blue Jays in Foxborough and lose 10-9 with their season and national title hopes on the line.


–by Ben Cohen

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Danowski Keeps Loss In Perspective

Audio from John Danowski

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Despite the Blue Devils’ obvious disappointment associated with coming up short of the program’s first national championship, head coach John Danowski wasn’t too outwardly upset about the loss.

“The sadness I feel–it’s not losing the game today,” Danowski said. “Listen, I’ve learned in the last two years the games aren’t that important. But you know what, I’m going to miss seeing these kids tomorrow. That’s what I’m going to miss: being with them, going to meals, being in the hotel with them for another day. I don’t get to do that now. And that’s what I’ll miss.”

Danowski praised his outgoing seniors, who helped raise the program to new heights but were unable to get over the hump and take home the national title. From the fifth-year players, who have been criticized for being allowed to play another season, to the senior class, which stuck with the program during the 2006 scandal, the head coach defended his team.

“This is one of the neatest groups of young men I’ve ever been around,” Danowski said. “There’s nothing that they don’t do well–academically, socially, community-oriented, lacrosse-wise. And the fifth-year guys had a chance to play again. They’ve been vilified for choosing to play a fifth year…. Why? You love to play lacrosse. Would you like to come back and maybe play in front of 40,000 people? I mean, come on, it’s a no-brainer for these kids…. Their legacy is they didn’t win the game today. They’re going to be very successful in life, and this is going to be a small bump in the road for all of them.”

-by Joe Drews

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What Went Wrong?

It’s the morning after Duke’s shocking 10-9 loss to Johns Hopkins in the national semifinal, a defeat that the ESPN analysts were fond of calling one of the biggest upsets in lacrosse history. And, on paper, it certainly was–this was a Blue Devil squad that absolutely dismantled Hopkins 17-6 back on April 5. So what went wrong Saturday?

We’ll take a more in-depth look into it in the coming days–including a game story and analysis later today–but to start out week of coverage, here’s a look back at Matthew Iles’ blog post from Wednesday, when he wrote that the players knew this wasn’t the same Blue Jay team and explained Duke’s reason for success last time against Hopkins:

“John Danowski inverted his offense, placing Crotty, who usually initiates from in front of the net, behind the cage. With Danowski and Greer on the wings and their defenders reluctant to slide from them, it became like an isolation play for Crotty. A strong dodger from anywhere on the field, Crotty is particularly dangerous from behind the cage, able to beat his man, turn the corner and fling the ball past opposing goalies with incredible skill. It was no different against Johns Hopkins, as Crotty scored three unassisted goals in this manner before the first half was over. Thanks to Crotty’s success, the Blue Jays were forced to slide from Danowski and Greer more, which helped them register seven points each.”

On Saturday, Crotty didn’t score and, perhaps as a result, Danowski and Greer combined for just three goals, and Danowski’s two strikes came in the game’s closing minutes. The two stars’ performance was eerily similar to their games in last year’s national championship, when the usually prolific scorers were held to one combined goal.

After Duke’s win over Hopkins in April, Iles wrote about Duke’s vulnerability to playing six-on-six sets, a story that looks remarkably prescient now.

So now, one lingering question remains: who will be back next year? A group of seniors needs to decide whether to enroll in graduate school at Duke, as they all graduated two weeks ago. The two most critical Blue Devils with a looming decision are Greer, already the NCAA’s all-time leading goal scorer, and midfielder Brad Ross, who scored Saturday. The MLL Draft deadline is Tuesday at 9 a.m., and we’ll keep you updated with their decisions.

Be sure to keep checking the blog for progress on that, and more insight into Duke’s Final Four loss.

–by Ben Cohen

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FOURTH QUARTER: Duke vs. Johns Hopkins

With time beginning to work against the Blue Devils, Matt Danowski scored a much-needed goal with 8:51 to go in regulation. His shot from 10 yards out was slowed down by Gvozden, but it trickled into the net to pull Duke within one at 7-6.

Johns Hopkins countered less than a minute and a half later, as George Castle scored his second goal of the year with 7:25 remaining to push the lead back to two. But the Blue Devils answered with two quick goals of their own, with Danowski firing an underhand shot into the back of the net at 7:13. Greer fed Nick O’Hara just six seconds later, knotting the score at eight.

The Blue Jays, though, didn’t take long to untie the game. O’Hara picked up a cross checking penalty six seconds after his goal, and Boyle scored on the ensuing extra-man opportunity.

And then, a potentially pivotal sequence. Quinzani picked up the ball at midfield, then sprinted down the left side and rifled a shot off the crossbar. The rebound was corralled by Johns Hopkins, and Huntley scored in transition to give the Blue Jays a 10-8 edge with 4:18 remaining.

Duke had a great scoring opportunity with 2:19 remaining, as Quinzani pushed a rebound off a Steve Schoeffel shot just wide right. The ball went out of bounds, giving Hopkins possession. The Blue Jays played keep-away for the next 60 seconds before the Blue Devils forced a turnover with a minute remaining.

With 28.2 seconds to go, Brad Ross got Duke within one with a goal into the upper left corner of the net from 15 yards out. Hopkins won the ensuing faceoff, but the Blue Devils forced a turnover, getting one last shot to even the score.

Coming out of a timeout with 3.9 seconds left, Danowski rips a shot that’s saved by Gvozden. The rebound squirts off to the left, and the Blue Devils can’t muster another attempt before time expires. And so, for the third time in four seasons, Duke’s season ends with a one-goal loss to Johns Hopkins in the NCAA Tournament.

–by Joe Drews

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THIRD QUARTER: Duke vs. Johns Hopkins

The Blue Jays scored an easy goal from right in front of the net to go up 5-2, and the Blue Devil faithful were getting restless.

But then Duke ripped off three goals in 45 seconds to tie it up. First, Steve Schoeffel ended the Blue Devils’ 20:02 scoring drought with an unassisted tally, dodging from the goal line extended, jumping and dunking the ball over Gvodsen’s shoulder. Then, Quinzani pulled Duke within one when he dodged from behind the net and scored despite being tripped in the process by a Johns Hopkins defenseman. Finally, the Blue Devils evened it up when Terrance Molinari won the faceoff beautifully and raced down the field. After passing it to Chris Tkac, he got it right back and fired it past Gvodsen.

Paul Rabil broke the tie for Johns Hopkins a few minutes later, though, shooting one into the upper right-hand corner of the net for a 6-5 Blue Jays lead.

Another highlight: as Johns Hopkins attempted to clear after a Gvodsen save, the Blue Jays risked a dangerous pass back to the goalie out in front of the net. Gvodsen’s head was turned, so he didn’t see Quinzani baring down on him. The goalie got the ball off just in time before Quinzani absolutely rocked him, sending Gvodsen to the ground while bringing some of the fans to their feet.

An unlucky bounce for Duke. As several players were wrestling for a groundball, it popped out and right into the stick of Kevin Huntley. With time running out in the quarter, Huntley reared back and unleashed a powerful shot over Loftus’ shoulder into the top left corner of the goal. Officially, the score came with two tenths of a second left on the clock.

Johns Hopkins-7, Duke-5

–by Matthew Iles

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SECOND QUARTER: Duke vs. Johns Hopkins

The low-scoring play of the first quarter continued into the second period, with Duke controlling time of possession early but unable to get one past Hopkins goalie Michael Gvozden. But with just over five minutes in, Blue Jay Brian Christopher found the back of the net, streaking down the right side and firing one past Dan Loftus. That goal tied the score at two, as the Blue Devils — aside from Zack Greer’s goal — have struggled to get out in the fast-paced transition game that has allowed its offense to be so successful this year.

With 5:35 remaining in the quarter, Johns Hopkins’ Steven Boyle initiated from behind the cage, curling around and one-handing a shot past Loftus to untie the game. Just 14 seconds later, the Blue Jays struck again as Boyle fed Kevin Huntley for an over-the-shoulder goal to give Hopkins a 4-2 lead.

Duke generated a couple scoring opportunities in the final minute of play, but Gvozden turned away two Matt Danowski attempts, and Max Quinzani was unable to get off a shot at the buzzer. The Blue Devils are held scoreless for the quarter, just the fourth time that has happened this season. 

So for the first time all year, Duke enters the break trailing. It was the Blue Devils’ lowest-scoring first half this season, and tied for the team’s worst half of 2008 — Duke was outscored 8-2 in the second half of its lone loss of the year, to Georgetown March 22.

If the Blue Devils are to avoid scoring in single digits for just the second time this season — and, more importantly, losing to Johns Hopkins for the third straight tournament — they will need crisper play on the offensive end. The Blue Jays’ long possessions seemed to frustrate Duke, as the Blue Devils rushed passes and made mistakes they don’t normally make.

–by Joe Drews

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