In the Crease: Duke and Dame for the Gold

In the Crease: Duke and Dame for the Gold

In a rematch of the 2010 lacrosse finals, #1 seed Duke looks to capture its second straight NCAA Division 1 Lacrosse title, and their third since 2010, as they square up against the streaking #6 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish today at 1:00 at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Duke is 12-1 in its last 13 games and #2 in the nation in points per game at just over 15. They face a scrappy Notre Dame team that is scoring 14 points per game over their last five, two points above their season average.

On paper, Duke is the stronger team, and is led by Tewaaraton finalist Jordan Wolf, who scored five points (3 goals 2 assists) in the semifinal game against Denver on Saturday.

To say Notre Dame is hot right now is an understatement. Starting with the ACC Tournament, won by the Irish for an automatic qualifying bid for the NCCA Tournament, Notre Dame is on a six-game win streak. Their last loss came against Maryland on April 19. On Saturday Notre Dame dropped 11 points against Maryland, the stingiest D1 defense in the country, to advance to today’s game.

What to look for

Duke lost Josh Dionne, its second leading scorer, in the quarterfinals against John Hopkins, but didn’t miss a beat against Denver in the semis, as his replacement, Kyle Keenan dropped in four points and added an assist.

Duke knows how to score. With Wolf, and a strong middie unit in Deemer Class and Myles Jones, they put up 15 goals in Saturday’s win. Standout FOGO middie Brendan Fowler, who seems to play better as the stakes get higher, will look to control possessions for the Blue Devils. Notre Dame can score in bunches, but its key to victory will be in limiting Duke’s offense–if they jump out to an early and significant lead, its not likely the Irish will be able to overcome the deficit like they did against Albany in the quarterfinals.

Goalie play is a question mark for Duke. In Saturday’s game, starting goalie Luke Aaron was pulled in the fourth quarter. Denver had been lighting him up to that point, and Aaron managed only three saves on the day. Kyle Turri, who started in goal last year on Duke’s championship team, replaced him and had a strong showing, giving up two goals against four saves. Aaron is slated to start today, but Coach Danowski will likely have him on a short leash, and won’t hesitate to pull him again if he struggles early.

The key to Notre Dame’s late success has been a combination of timely scoring, monster defense, and heart.

Notre Dame is led by the scrappy Matt Kavanagh, who is having a stellar run in the tournament, and to date, gets my pick as the MOP. He was unstoppable on Saturday, with five goals and two assists to lead the Irish.

The Irish have a strong 10 man ride that creates havoc for opposing teams, causing turnovers and creating additional opportunities for their offense. If Duke can pick that lock today, they should be the one hoisting the trophy around 4:00. That’s a big “if.”

The big game airs on ESPN 2 and SiriusXM College Sports Nation, channel 91.