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Duke spent the last decade as college lacrosse’s version of the 90’s Houston Oilers. They always seemed to be among the best teams all season, they always seemed to be a top seed in the playoffs and yet they never won anything.
Still, it’s not as though they were the only team to fit that bill over the years. Considering only seven schools has ever won a National Title in NCAA lacrosse (Virginia, Syracuse, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Maryland and Cornell), that makes for a lot of good-but-not-great lax programs left in the dust. So many have tried to take their place among the elite and so many have failed.
Now, Duke has broken through.
They did so by beating a Notre Dame team that was in the same boat, looking for a win to propel their program to a new echelon. Some could probably point to this as a sign that the sport is finally ready to let go of it’s old-guard mentality and expand. Then again, those people should remember that the aforementioned former champions were all in the playoffs this year and many of them were top seeds.
In that sense, the pressure is actually on Duke and Notre Dame even more so now. They have laid down the gauntlet that both are deserving of a spot among the elite ranks. Now they have to prove it. Elite lacrosse programs don’t just win a title. They win multiple titles. They dominate. They get to the point where we only notice them when they’re NOT playing for the national title.
Duke’s win represents a bit of a crossroads for the game. The Blue Devils have officially put the events of 2006 behind them and they’ve broken through the glass ceiling of a very exclusive sport. Then again, because the usual suspects weren’t playing for the championship, the crowd for today’s title game was the smallest since 2003.
We’re eager to see where the Blue Devils, and the sport, go from here.
With a goal in the first minute of OT—the first five seconds, to be extact—the Duke Blue Devils won their first-ever National Championship. It was a close game throughout, as John Danowski said afterward, "Notre Dame was phenomenal. [Star goalie] Scott Rogers was... As [good as] advertised." And indeed, Notre Dame shocked the masses not just by reaching the title game, but competing with Duke once they got there.
But in the end, the Blue Devils were too much.
Despite controlling the pace for much of the game, Notre Dame struggled to score against the Duke defense, forcing their goalie Scott Rogers to carry the load. In one of the lowest scoring title games in NCAA history, neither team could ever take control, as Rogers stifled the Devils' attackmen, and the Irish offense struggled on the other end.
Then, in an instant, a back-and-forth, ugly contest was over. C.J. Costabile won the opening faceoff of overtime, and ran right through the teeth of the Notre Dame defense to fire home the game-winner. The win caps a remarkable season for Duke's senior-laden squad, and represents the ultimate redemption for a Duke program that's been fighting to restore itself since the ugly scandal in 2006 that brought the program to the brink of destruction.
Today, they're champions.
In Baltimore for this afternoon’s lacrosse National Title game, it’s hot. Like, really hot. Like, 144 degrees on the field. So, given the heat, Notre Dame’s Navy Blue uniforms certainly won’t help. As Pete Thamel reports for the New York Times:
The heat will be a huge advantage for Duke today. Much deeper team and Notre Dame can’t be happy wearing navy blue uniforms.
It obviously won’t decide the game, but in a close matchup, every edge counts. And with a field temperature rumored at 144 degrees… Well, those sound like pretty extreme conditions. Would you rather be wearing navy blue or white?
Looking for a cliffs notes guide to understanding this afternoon's NCAA final? Patrick Stevens' D1scourse blog has got you covered. Below, three of five storylines that Stevens thinks will decide the final:
1. Mad Max --- and Crotty, too. Attackman Max Quinzani set a Duke single-season record with his 68th goal of the season on Saturday. It happened to be the game-winner, too. The feed on the play came from Ned Crotty, who might possess the best field vision of anyone who has passed through the Blue Devils' program and has a Duke-record 62 assists this year.
That's saying something.
Crotty has at least three points in all but three games --- including losses to Notre Dame and North Carolina.
2. Where there's a will, there's a Ridgway. And a Creighton. And a Randall. And an Irving. It takes a while to fully appreciate the work of Notre Dame's poles. They don't play individual assignments so much as they do what is necessary to win, and it's very much a part of the Fighting Irish's program philosophy.
Go back to 2004, and take a look at the save percentages of the starting goalies: .599, .652, .596, .614, .635, .663, .596.
The latter number belongs to Scott Rodgers this season, and that's Notre Dame at its worst over the last seven seasons. It has everything to do with defensemen who simply keep guys in front of them and don't yield high-percentage shots. That won't be easy to accomplish against Duke, but the Irish did hold the Blue Devils to seven goals earlier this season.
3. The need to lead. A couple notable numbers on Notre Dame.
First, the Irish have trailed for all of 17:25 of 180 minutes of play in three NCAA tournament games.
Perhaps more significantly, in 300 minutes of second-half action in 10 victories all season, the Irish have trailed for a princely sum of 23:36. Of that, all but 3 minutes and 15 seconds came in an overtime defeat of Ohio State (1:18 against Princeton, 1:57 against Loyola)
In short, Notre Dame's path to victory involves building an early lead and then suffocating an opponent.
So let's put it this way: If Duke leads at halftime, chances are very good it will win.
For more, head on over to D1scourse to see Stevens' full take on today's action.
After a thrilling upset of no. 1-ranked UVA in the National Semifinals, the Duke Blue Devils will face Notre Dame this afternoon for the chance to claim their first-ever National Championship in NCAA Lacrosse. But of course, the Irish are fighting for the same thing--after upsetting Cornell on Saturday night, the Irish have a shot to win a first National Championship of their own.
Indeed, while neither squad was expected to make it this far, Notre Dame is the underdog here. Duke's been a longstanding powerhouse in Division 1 lacrosse, while Notre Dame's never been considered a member of the sport's true elite. But today, they're both equals. Two college programs that have never won a Title. By the end of the day, that'll change.
Patrick Stevens of the lacrosse blog, DIScourse, notes that whoever wins, it'll be a well-deserved reward for a coach that's been there many times before:
In addition to crowning a first-time champ, the Memorial Day matchup between Duke and Notre Dame guarantees something else.
One of the two head coaches will collect a title after more than a dozen NCAA tournament trips without leading the last team standing. (Understand, of course, that defining "success" merely 0-for-a-championship terms isn't all that wise. But given the matchup, it is sort of interesting)
Notre Dame's Kevin Corrigan is in his 15th NCAA tournament, Duke's John Danowski his 13th. No matter who wins, it'll be the most postseason trips before winning a title in tournament history.
It should be an interesting afternoon, no matter who you're rooting for. Coverage begins at 3:30 on ESPN.
No. 1 Virginia’s reward for winning their first-round NCAA tournament game? To play frisky No. 8 Stony Brook IN Stony Brook. So much for having an advantage. The top-seeded Cavaliers got a heck of an effort from the home team but held on for a 10-9 victory. Virginia heads back to the Final Four for the third-straight year.
They’ll take on fellow ACC squad Duke in the Final Four. The No. 4 Blue Devils defeated the No. 4 North Carolina Tar Heels in the newest extension of the two school’s rivalry. Duke scored four straight goals in the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter and never looked back en route to a 17-9 victory.
On the other side of the bracket, No. 7 Cornell breathed a sigh of relief when Army upset No. 2 Syracuse last weekend. They took advantage of the opportunity by throttling the Black Knights 14-5. It’s Cornell’s third trip to the Final Four in four years and they’ll look to take home the title they came so close to winning last year.
They’ll have to get past Notre Dame first. The unseeded Irish were considered a controversial pick when they were added to the tournament. They’ve taken the opportunity to prove their worth and then some. They followed up their win over No. 6 Princeton with a 7-5 slugfest win over No. 3 Maryland. It’s Notre Dame’s first trip to the Final Four since 2001.
With the loss, it was another disappointing finish for a Maryland program way-too-far removed from their last championship. That’s probably a large part of why Dave Cottle resigned as Terrapins’ head coach the day following the loss. Cottle took Maryland to the Final Four three times since 2001 but did not return the program to the top of the sport.
As for the four winners, it’s on to the Final Four in Baltimore next weekend. The semifinals will take place on Saturday with the title game on Monday. For Virginia, they’re trying to win their first time in four years. Cornell is trying to win their first title since 1977. Meanwhile Duke and Notre Dame are both in search of their first titles.
For Syracuse fans, it’s a strange feeling. Certainly very few of them expected to loss this weekend, let alone before the Final Four.
May 16th. The Syracuse lacrosse season ends two weeks early. On one hand, it’s the third time in six years we’ve missed the Final Four, which is unheard-of. On the other hand, we’re coming off two National Championships and I suppose we were due for a stumble. Technically I guess we’re not supposed to be bummed because of our recent success but when you root for SU lacrosse and you expect to win the title every year, losing this early does not feel good.
It might be too soon to rank exactly where this loss ranks on the all-time upset list. It’s certainly up there. SU ended the year 13-1 and had beaten Army 12-7 earlier in the season. The Orange hadn’t lost in the first-round of the NCAA Tournament since 2005,which also happened to be the only time they had made the tournament and failed to make the Final Four since 1983.
Patrick Stevens over at D1SCOURCE says that the Army-Syracuse upset ranks as the No. 2 upset of all time, just behind Johns Hopkins win over Maryland in the ’87 Final Four.
It would probably rate as No. 1 if it happened later in the tournament. As it stands, this will have to suffice as lacrosse’s answer to Arizona-Santa Clara, South Carolina-Coppin State, Iowa State-Hampton and, yes, Syracuse-Richmond. The Black Knights were 0-3 against the tournament field, and the Orange had long made a late spring trip to the Carrier Dome an unwinnable situation. But even after Syracuse built a 5-1 lead, Army didn’t wilt. It scored in the final minute of the second and third quarters, erased an 8-6 deficit in the final 10 minutes and got a goal from Devin Lynch with five seconds left in the second overtime to pull a titanic shocker.
Since the early 80’s, an investment is a Final Four ticket was about as sure a thing as a Syracuse lacrosse fan could make. The Orange made the Final Four 22-straight years between 1983 and 2005 and had only missed the Final Four twice since ’83. Despite being the No. 2 seed this year, Syracuse will miss out on the Final Four for the third time in the last six years after losing 9-8 in double overtime to unseeded Army.
The Syracuse lacrosse team’s season ended abruptly Sunday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when a couple of Central New York products teamed up for the winning goal with 5.7 seconds left in the second sudden-death overtime period. Army (11-5) won 9-8 before a crowd of 5,479 in the Carrier Dome and will face Cornell on Sunday at Stony Brook.
The Black Knights avenged a loss to the Orange in the regular season in what has to be one of the biggest upsets in NCAA Lacrosse Tournament history. The road just opened up great for the other favorites in the tournament, all of whom won on opening weekend.
No. 1 Virginia, in their first game since the Yeardley Love tragedy, got back to what they do best…dominating on the field. They beat over-matched Mount Saint Mary 18-4 and moved on the 2nd round. With the Orange out and proof that their heads are in the game, the Cavs are once again the clear favorite to win the tournament.
In other games:
No. 3 Maryland used a balanced attack to outlast Hofstra 11-8.
Johns Hopkins was a controversial selection based on their 7-7 record and they did nothing to prove they belonged in the tournament. No. 4 Duke blew Hopkins out 18-5 and got a modicum of revenge for all the times the Jays beat them in the tournaments’ past.
No. 5 North Carolina got a great game from Delaware. The two teams both scored six times in the first quarter, once in the second quarter and twice in the fourth quarter. It was the one extra goal the Tar Heels scored in the third that was the difference-maker as they held on for a 14-13 victory.
Notre Dame was also a controversial pick for the tournament. Unlike Hopkins, they proved their worth by upsetting No. 6 Princeton 8-5. The Irish allowed only one 2nd-half goal.
No. 7 Cornell is not only ecstatic after beating Loyola 11-10 in double overtime but also because they don’t have to see Syracuse in the 2nd round. Junior Max Feely’s first-career goal couldn’t have come at a better time.
Finally, No. 8 Stony Brook earned the right to take on mighty Virginia after topping Denver 9-7 and ending Bill Tierney’s storybook first season with the Pioneers.
Let’s take a look at the brackets for next week’s Quarterfinal round. The winners here will go on to the Final Four in Baltimore Memorial Day Weekend.
No. 1 Virginia vs. No. 8 Stony Brook
No. 4 North Carolina vs. No. 5 Duke
No. 3 Maryland vs. Notre Dame
No. 7 Cornell vs. Army
Virginia, Syracuse, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, North Carolina, Maryland and Cornell.
Every NCAA Lacrosse Championship ever handed out has gone to one of those schools. That's seven teams in 39 years. Parity is not one of college lacrosse's strong suites.
Sure enough, all six of those teams are back in the sixteen-team NCAA Tournament this year, including three of the top overall seeds. The odds that one of them will win another title are pretty strong. And so college lacrosse goes...
That's not to say it's all the same old story. 2010 was a year that saw transitions and changings of the guard slowly but surely starting to take place. Former Princeton coach Bill Tierney shocked the sport by leaving the Tiger to coach the University of Denver. He kept the shock going by getting the Pioneers into the NCAA Tournament in his first season. Johns Hopkins, the Notre Dame football of the college lax world, barely eeked their way into the tournament despite a 7-7 record thanks to a strong SOS and more than likely a little historical preference.
Denver and Stony Brook and Mount Saint Mary's make for nice stories but it's Virginia, Syracuse and Maryland that sell tickets. And the 2010 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament bracket certainly features its old guard quite well.
The road to the Final Four in Baltimore on Memorial Day Weekend begins on Saturday, May 15th and Sunday, May 16th with the opening round games. Let's take a quick look to see what to expect in the eight match-ups.
No. 1 Virginia (14-1) vs. Mount Saint Mary's (12-4) - May 15th, 7:30 p.m. ESPNU
Setting aside the events of the past week, Virginia would already be the team to watch in the tournament. Far and away the best team in the nation, UVA beat every other team ranked in the top five this season and spent most of the year in the top spot. Of course, you can't help but factor in the events of Yeardley Love's death and wonder how the team will be affected. It shouldn't cause them issues here but the intensity and spotlight will get bigger with each game.
As for Mount Saint Mary's, they got here by winning the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference automatic bid. They opened the season with a 15-7 loss to the Cavaliers and no one expects this one to be much closer. Just making the tournament is their reward.
No. 2 Syracuse (13-1) vs. Army (10-5) - May 16th, 7:30 p.m. ESPNU
Some have wondered if the tragic events surrounding Virginia's season have catapulted two-time defending champion Syracuse into the driver's seat of the tournament. The Orange's only loss came to the Cavaliers by one point and they'll be looking for the opportunity to avenge it. First things first they need to get past the Cadets and they'll look to their strong defense, led by goalie John Galloway, to do that.
The Cadets are hoping experience playing the Orange in the Dome pays off. They lost to SU 12-7 earlier in the year and are in the midst of an seven-game winning streak that carried them into the tournament. Good luck, SU is 25-1 in the Dome since 2008.
No. 3 Maryland (11-3) vs. Hofstra (9-4) - May 15th, 12:00 p.m. ESPNU
Maryland hasn't been to the Final Four since 2006, played for the lacrosse title since 1998 and hasn't won it since 1973. They'll have a good chance to rectify the situation this year. The Terps came within one of beating Virginia in their first meeting and their only other loss came at the hands of No. 4 North Carolina. They're fast, they're deep and they're hungry to reclaim their spot atop the lax world.
Hofstra is a bit of a surprise here after not winning their conference tournament. Credit the Pride's potent scoring offense and quality wins over a bunch of tournament teams. Still, they're going to need to put together a helluva game if they want to beat Maryland.
No. 4 North Carolina (12-2) vs. Delaware (10-6) - May 16th, 5:00 p.m. ESPNU
The last time North Carolina won a national title was 1991, their fourth NCAA title. This might be their best shot in a long time. The began the season 10-0 and rose to No. 2 in the rankings before running into No. 1 Virginia. They finished the season losing two of their last four thanks to wear, tear and some unfortunate injuries.
The Heels defense has looked porous and that's good news for Delaware's Curtis Dickson, who led the nation with 75 points. Another good sign, the Blue Hens have experience with the first-round upset, beating Virginia in 2007. The hero that day? Freshman Curtis Dickson.
No. 5 Duke (12-4) vs. Johns Hopkins (7-7) - May 15th, 12:00 p.m. ESPN
Duke might be the best lacrosse program never to win a national title. They've been ranked at or near the top of the polls almost every year this decade and at some point in the tournament the wheels always seem to fall off. This year they've been no favors as they'll face what has to be the best 7-7 team in the nation.
Any other 7-7 team probably wouldn't have gotten the benefit of the doubt that Hopkins did as they eeked into the tournament thanks to a strong schedule and finish. But this is Hopkins and what they lack in wins they make up for in experience and battle-testing. This is, after all, their 39th-straight trip to the tournament. These two tangled in the 2007 Title Game (Hopkins won 11-10) and in the 2008 Final Four (Hopkins won 10-9).
No. 6 Princeton (11-4) vs. Notre Dame (7-6) - May 16th, 2:30 p.m. ESPNU
The Tigers did well in year one of the post-Bill Tierney Era, winning the Ivy League and avenging an earlier loss to Cornell. A blowout loss to Syracuse and curious upset by Harvard raises questions about the Tigers' stability. They'll lean on their goalie Tyler Fiorito who has carried the defense late in the season.
Notre Dame is the most curious selection of the tournament. They barely won more games than they lost and their SOS wasn't as good as Georgetown's, who was snubbed. The early-season wins over Duke and Loyola are a big part of why they're here. The Fighting Irish has had its struggles but its the defense that's gotten them here (and gives them their best shot to move on).
No. 7 Cornell (10-5) vs. Loyola (9-4) - May 15th, 2:30 p.m. ESPNU
Last year Cornell could almost taste their first National Title since 1977 before giving the game away to Syracuse. A win here and they'll get a chance at revenge. They finished the season 2-3 but they've got the tools to advance.
They Greyhounds were the final bubble team to make the cut, limping into the tournament with losses to Denver and Hopkins. Loyola's offense has a tendency to disappear but their defense is one of the best in the nation.
No. 8 Stony Brook (12-3) vs. Denver (12-4) - May 15th, 5:00 p.m. ESPNU
Stony Brook is the closest thing we have to the Butler basketball team in the tournament. The American East Conference champs are on an eight-game winning streak and their three losses are to tournament teams. One of which was a 13-12 loss to Denver. Kevin Crowley leads one of the most potent offenses in the nation but their defense remains suspect.
Denver has basically been playing playoff lacrosse since early April. After a 1-3 start, the Pioneers have rattled off eleven wins in twelve games and an ECAC title in Bill Tierney's first season at the helm. They bring a strong offense as well in what we can expect to be a high-scoring showdown.
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