The Devils held on to top Cornell 16-14 and advance to the championship game.
The first of two NCAA Championship Weekend semi-finals on Saturday was one of the best lacrosse games national television has seen in a while. In what proved to be a back and forth game for the better part of the first half turned into a third quarter blowout only to become a race against the clock in the final quarter of play. The Duke Blue Devils held on in the final minutes of the game to beat the Cornell Big Red 16-14 and advance to the NCAA Lacrosse Championship on Monday against the Syracuse Orange. Cornell led 3-1 at the end of the first half, and found themselves trailing 7-6 at halftime. Duke came out firing at the beginning of the third quarter and used it to take a 14-7 lead into the fourth quarter. It looked as if Cornell could’ve packed up and gone home at that point, but Tewaaraton Award candidate Rob Pannell wasn’t about to give up. Pannell and the Big Red offense exploded in the fourth and gave Duke one heck of a run for their money, bringing themselves within one goal with just over a minute left. But then, Duke’s saving grace, Brendan Fowler came through in the clutch and won his most important face-off yet. Duke was able to call a timeout and get the ball to Jordan Wolf who sped past two defenders to score with just 38 seconds left to put Duke up by two.
Wolf was near unstoppable all game against the Big Red defense, using his ridiculous speed to finish the game with four goals and an assist. Wolf’s goals were all timely and exactly when the team needed them, which definitely made his case for game MVP which ended up going to goalie Kyle Turri. Future Charlotte Hound midfielder Jake Tripuka added a hat-trick and assist for the Blue Devils, who are playing for their first National Title since the 2010 season when they won in overtime over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Also adding goals for the Blue Devils were Josh Dionne (2g, 0a), David Lawson (2g, 2a), Greg DeLuca (1g, 1a), Case Matheis (1g, 3a), Christian Walsh (1g, 2a) and defenseman Bill Conners (1g, 0a). Game MVP Kyle Turri made a career high 13 saves in goal against the high shooting Cornell offense (they took 53 shots during the game). First team All-American face-off specialist Brendan Fowler won 16 face-offs against Cornell’s Doug Tesoriero.
After the game, five-year player and Tewaaraton Award favorite Rob Pannell took a while to reflect on his storied career. During the game, Pannell surpassed former Blue Devil Matt Danowski as the All-Time NCAA Lacrosse leading scorer with 354 points. Pannell finished the game with seven total points (5g, 2a) and was a big reason for their fourth quarter surge. Pannell used his leadership to motivate his offense which propelled guys like Connor Buczek (3g, 1a) and Max Van Bourgondien (2g, 1a) to step up and challenge Duke in the final quarter. The high-scoring attackman opposite Pannell, Steve Mock was held to just two points (1g, 1a) after scoring seven goals in their quarterfinal game against Ohio State. Also scoring for the Big Red were Matt Donovan (2g, 0a) and Connor English (1g, 0a). In goal for Cornell was AJ Fiore who had 10 saves against the high-scoring Blue Devils. Fiore started strong during the first quarter, but really struggled during the second and third quarters only to re-find his swagger in the fourth when he held Duke to just two goals.
Cornell ends their season with a 14-4 record but will lose multiple seniors including Pannell and Mock. For Duke, they move on to the D1 Championship game on Monday against Syracuse who held on to beat Denver 9-8 in regular time. Syracuse enters the championship game with a 13-3 record. The two teams will meet in what is a preview of future games as Syracuse is moving to the ACC for the 2014 season. Duke and Syracuse will face-off at 1pm on Monday at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA and can be watched on ESPN.