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