One of the best things about sports is that, while it produces storybook outcomes, it doesn’t guarantee or even particularly favor them. Thus, Duke came up one goal short in today’s lacrosse championship match in Baltimore against Johns Hopkins.
Although the game wasn’t decided until the final second when a Duke shot passed just wide of the net, Hopkins owes the victory to its domination of the first half in which it jumped to a 10-4 lead. Duke, in fact, seemed almost missing in action for the first half hour. This may have had something to do with Duke’s grueling semifinal against Cornell in 100 degree heat (Hopkins had a weaker semifinal opponent and an earlier match time), but it had more to do with Hopkins’ prowess on face-offs, its nearly faultless passing and shooting, and the great defense it played against Duke superstars Matt Danowski and Zack Greer.
Duke rallied in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 10-9. Hopkins continued to contain Danowski and Greer, but midfielders Peter Lamade, Brad Ross, and Ned Crotty picked up the offensive slack.
Duke finally tied the game at 11-11 with less than five minutes to go, but Hopkins regained the lead at the 3:25 mark. Duke fought back fiercely, but the Hopkins goal seemed to have a lid on it, as Duke hit the post twice in the latter stages of the half. Then, with only 12 seconds remaining, Hopkins goalkeeper Jesse Schwartzman pulled off a stunning kick save on a shot by Ross. Somehow Duke managed to recover possession and launch a final attack, but a last second shot just missed.
The scoresheet shows that Danowski and Greer combined for only one goal, thanks in large part to the effort of Hopkins defenders Michael Evans and Eric Zerrlaut. However, Danowski’s passing played a big part in the Duke comeback, and Greer drew several key fouls as Hopkins struggled to contain him late in the match. Duke will regret its inability on several occasions to convert the manpower advantage resulting from these fouls
In a sense, Duke ends up exactly where it was two years ago — one goal short in a championship match against Hopkins. However, the team’s two-year journey since that day represents a remarkable story of which, on balance, the team can take great pride.
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