Photo Credit: Ian Neadle
Duke came out blistering against Johns Hopkins. They attacked relentless before the Jays were able to settle in and battle back. Now that they move onto Championship Weekend for the eighth consecutive year, Duke knows that they need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to repeat as champions.
Myles Jones was an unstoppable force for Duke and Jordan Wolf paced the attack to provide two fronts to contest the Jays defense. Christian Walsh and Jones put continued pressure on Hopkins and when they let the attack have their turn, they just kept the pace high. Deemer Class was quiet, but they were supported by Kyle Keenan in his stead against Hopkins. Unfortunately for Duke, they have to deal with the injury to Josh Dionne, who went down just before half and was on crutches through the rest of the game. After the injury, Wolf played with an out right aggression getting to the cage.
Brendan Fowler had his way early against Drew Kennedy. When Hopkins switched it up and put long stick midfielder Mike Pellegrino at the dot, they played for the 50-50 opportunity. They won enough to keep the game close until Duke ran away at the end. Fowler’s ability to win draws will be a key component to his teams ability to move forward throughout the weekend. If he can do so against Duke, Notre Dame, and Maryland depending on who they face, it will give the Blue Devils continued opportunities which they may need with a reconfigured lineup.
If Duke gets into a low scoring battle with their opposition, it may be an early exit during Championship Weekend. They really haven’t proven that they can stop teams. Syracuse in the ACC Tournament and Johns Hopkins this past weekend hasn’t shown that Duke can stop the higher caliber teams from scoring. Given the goalie issue from Sunday, Luke Aaron will likely get the starting nod but expect a quick exit for Kyle Turri if momentum begins to sway against the Blue Devils.
Denver won convincingly over the Drexel Dragons on Sunday, advancing to their second straight Final Four. The Pioneers are looking to break through onto Memorial Day’s tilt for the championship after bowing out to Syracuse last season. They are certainly capable to get the job done from the look of their 2014 squad.
Denver’s two goalie system is still an anomaly that other teams have tried to duplicate and simply cannot. Jamie Faus and Eric Laplante backstop Tierney’s defensive system without skipping a beat. After last year’s second guess, Tierney will have the right configuration in goal for the weekend without a doubt. Neither goal was less than 50 percent on their saves. Laplante only had to make three, which means the defense in front of him played extremely well.
Sometimes the best defense is a good offense. Matt Brown’s offense is clicking at the right time. They spread the wealth, but the main beneficiary is Erik Adamson. He had seven points and six goals Sunday to get his team to advance. Jeremy Noble is playing extremely well, ending the game against Drexel with five points on one goal, four assists. There is no doubt that he wants to make his mark on Championship Weekend for the Pioneers after having a less than stellar junior season by his standards.
Bill Tierney has his team playing its best lacrosse right now. Drexel isn’t the caliber of team that they will face in Duke and then the winner of Maryland and Notre Dame, but they controlled the game against Drexel with ruthless authority. With his defensive system in place and the offense being spread around, the Pioneers provide mismatches all over the field against opponents.
Both teams had great days to earn their tickets to the Final Four. Duke is accustomed to the type of games that are required to win National Championships, as they have two in the last five years. Denver has the experience to know what they need to put together to get to where no Pioneer team has gone before, the Championship Game.
As an outsiders look onto these two teams, Denver might be in better position to walk away with the championship trophy on Memorial Day. The Big East Conference didn’t have the stellar season they had hoped for before the season began, but the teams played with a slower pace which many teams implore this coming weekend. Even Duke had to win their first title in a very slow, low scoring affair against Notre Dame. Now all four teams can put goals on the board, but who can play that slower, more deliberate style might just being calling themselves National Champions next Monday.