Who: Notre Dame at Duke
Where: Koskinen Stadium - Durham, North Carolina
When: 5pm ET
TV: ESPNU and the WatchESPN app
It has been an up-and-down season for the Duke Blue Devils, and it's hard to write that about a 7-3 lacrosse team.
Freshly off another National Championship run, the Blue Devils seemed poised to reload for another go at the ACC crown and yet another National Championship. Star middies Myles Jones and Deemer Class returned to the squad with enough offensive firepower to match almost any team in the country.
But there have been some cracks in the armor.
The Blue Devils have been nagged by injuries this season. Case Matheis, the anchor of the Blue Devils attack, has only played in 7 games this season and three of them were coming off the bench. Goalie Luke Aaron missed the last game against North Carolina after going down with an injury against Georgetown and a rough outing against Syracuse.
In addition, fresh faces still getting their sea legs under them are plaguing the Blue Devils at spots where they need it most. With the #1 team coming to town, here is who the Irish will be facing:
At attack, the lone returner without Matheis in the mix is Chad Cohan (12g, 7a) who is 5th on the team in points but has mainly lined up as a middie this season. That means that the attack is almost brand new without Matheis. As Matheis played last game against North Carolina, I'm assuming he'll go this evening. Surrounding him are 10-game starter Justin Guterding (32g, 9a) and Jack Bruckner (21g, 7a). The funny thing is that even though Case Matheis has missed three games and only started 4 so far this season, he is still 6th on the team in points with 12 goals and 7 assists.
Based on the stats, it seems that Guterding is a crease monkey in the same vein as Notre Dame's Mikey Wynne. Ditto Bruckner. Considering that most of Duke's offense revolves around the midfield creating opportunities, this makes sense. I expect Landis to start off on Matheis if he goes and Epple and Glazener to guard Bruckner and Guterding. Since Epple tends to slide more as a 1, I'm guessing he'll be on Guterding and Edwin will guard Bruckner. Now, this is all subject to change if the Irish middies can't handle the Blue Devils' middies, who are formidable.
Why are they formidable? Because they're enormous and good. With Myles Jones (26g, 23a) and Deemer Class (23g, 10a) on Duke's top line with Cohan, they're goal-scorers in every sense of the word. And these guys go off. Myles Jones let me say, is awesome. He's basically Sergio Perkovic with more polish. He's 6'4, 240 with a cannon shot and a natural awareness for the game that you really can't coach. The guy just "gets" it. He's also a lot of fun to watch. He's an unselfish player who generates offense and isn't afraid to give the ball up if necessary. Deemer Class, outside of having a true Lax Bro name, benefits from not having an LSM to guard him most of the time. This is a scary midfield.
However, Duke's second line middies, while seasoned vets, don't score as much.
At faceoff, Jack Rowe is the water carrier for the Duke offense, going 56% on the season. As comparison between similar opponents, Rowe, the ND, was abused by Denver's Trevor Baptiste and was similar to Finley against Syracuse's Ben Williams, going 12-26 (46%).
The largest crack in Duke's armor is at defense, where they are starting three relatively brand new poles. Sophomore Brian Dunne (14gb, 10 caused turnovers) and Freshman Ethan Powley (11gb, 8 caused turnovers) are the lone 10-game starters while Sophomore Ian Yanulis (9gb, 3 caused turnovers) and Freshman Greg Pelton (15gb, 5 caused turnovers) have split the other 10 games in the back. Dunne has seven penalties on the season while Powley, Yanulis and Pelton have combined for 6. This is a group of poles that will be absolutely dangerous in a couple years but right now, they're still learning on the job and judging by their atrocious 57th of 69 defense ranking, they have nowhere to go but up.
In net, Luke Aaron has been the guy for the past few years now for the Blue Devils. However, he didn't play the last game against North Carolina and Danny Fowler started in his place. No matter who is in net, both have been torched by high-octane offenses this season.
When I play Black Ops 2 multiplayer, there are a lot of teenagers who question my sexuality on their headsets and rage quit because of how I play. Basically, I do whatever I can to get to the other team's spawn area and hang out at their closest base to capture and just pick opponents off as they leave that zone. This gets me a lot of kills, but the process of getting to that point on a map means that I die. A lot. So when the round ends, I have a lot of kills but a lot of deaths too. Somewhat related, I am the worst person to play multiplayer Black Ops 2 with. I suck the fun out of it. Sorry. I just don't like fun. Or happiness. Oh, and Michigan. Remember the 6.
Why does this matter though? What is the point of explaining a multiplayer strategy of a video game in a lacrosse post? Well, that is basically Duke's strategy every game.
Duke knows who they are at this point, and tries to win by outscoring their opponent, defense be damned. The results are pretty staggering. In Duke's wins, they've given up an average of 10 goals and in their 3 losses, they've given up an average of 17 goals. Either way, that is a really high number.
That said, Duke has the offense to carry out that strategy. With a top line like Jones, Class and Cohan, they push opponents to the brink and force longsticks to guard high and slide early.
So, can the Irish win on Duke's turf, where Duke has not lost yet this season?
I think so.
Notre Dame will be the third #1 team that Duke has faced this season. Yikes. The other two games resulted in Blue Devils losses, 17-13 to Denver and 19-7 to Syracuse. The Syracuse game was particularly horrible for Duke. It was any lacrosse fan's worst nightmare come to life. After that, Duke circled the wagons and had a really solid game against North Carolina, but still lost 15-14.
Notre Dame is a lot like Syracuse. Who knew. And while I don't think that Notre Dame will have a Syracuse-type outing against Duke, I think that the Irish's strengths play really well in this game. I think that a confident P.J. Finley will help the offense possess and given Duke's defensive struggles, I can see a nice outing for Kavanagh, Wynne and Doyle. Sergio Perkovic, who lit up the scoreboard against Duke in the National Championship, does it again. In addition, I think the Irish middies do just enough to keep Jones and Class in check and the Irish keep Grace Hall lit for another week.
Notre Dame 17 Duke 12