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Men, Women's Lax Continue To Excel

We've seen this movie before: the calendar turns from February to March, and BOOM! Duke starts playing defense.

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Another solid weekend for Duke men's and women's lacrosse, with two games that played out quite similarly. Both teams, after being held in check for the first half, went on second-half runs that eventually broke the opposition. On Friday, the women ran their record to 7-0 (2-0 in the ACC) by beating Virginia Tech, 15-10. On Saturday, the men defeated Loyola 14-8 to go to 6-1.

Friday Night: Women Fight Off Hokies

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Virginia Tech came to Koskinen Stadium for their ACC opener sporting a 4-3 record against competition that could hardly be characterized as elite (wins over Liberty, Coastal Carolina, Old Dominion, and Gardner-Webb). Those expecting a Blue Devils romp were in for a surprise, however. The Hokies came off the bus ready for a fight, and gave Duke all it wanted and then some in the first half. The Hokies fought Duke to a near standoff in the center circle (6-for-13), won the ground ball battle, and shot 60 percent including 3-for-3 on free-position attempts.

Duke flew out to a 3-0 advantage in the first six minutes, on goals by Kyra Harney, Maddie Crutchfield, and Kerrin Maurer. The Hokies absorbed the blow, stabilized both ends of the field, and went on a 5-1 run of their own over the next 16 minutes to take a one-goal lead. Meg Bartley led the outburst with three goals. Duke countered with a big momentum-swinging goal by Crutchfield right from the draw after Bartley's third, and Katie Tries cashed in free-position attempt to give Duke the lead back at 6-5 with 7:45 to go. Virginia Tech's Meagh Graham kept it a one-goal game with a superb save on Duke's Maddy Acton, and Jessi Thon sent the teams to the locker room tied at 6 with a free-position strike with :30 to go.

The first 15 minutes of the second half were very much like the first half. The Hokies struck first on Megan Will's second of the day, after the Duke defense gambled for an interception behind the net and came up empty, but a pair from Katie Trees and a Taylor Trimble strike gave Duke a 9-7 advantage with just under 20 minutes to play. The Hokies twice closed to within one goal, the second time when Will drove the right alley to goal-line-extended and ducked under a check to get to the doorstep. That was as close as the Hokies would come to the upset, as Duke answered with a 4-0 run on goals by Erin Tenneson, Harney, Maurer, and Taylor Trimble off a superb feed from Trees. Will got one back for the Hokies with 4:10 to go, but Duke won the ensuing draw and spread the field, taking three minutes off the clock, and when the Hokies finally got possession after a fine save by Graham on Maddy Action, Brigid Smith added the exclamation point off an interception and end-to-end run with :15 to go.

For Duke, Harney led the way with six points (3g, 3a). Five other Blue Devils contributed two goals each, and two others chipped in single markers. Kelsey Duryea had five saves. After relying heavily on Maurer in the wins over Northwestern and Notre Dame, Duke went to draw-by-committee, and the committee went 16-for-27. Duke defender Maura Schwitter took a heavy hit from behind with about 16 minutes to go, had to be helped off, and did not return.

Will had four goals for the Hokies, Bartley had a hat trick, and three others contributed a single goal. Graham had ten saves.

Duke had a plus-two possession advantage, and shot 15-27 on the way to 53.6 percent offensive efficiency. The Hokies shot 10-18, but turnovers and failed clears limited their offensive efficiency to 38.5 percent.

Duke moves to 7-0, 2-0 in ACC play. The Blue Devils spend spring break on the road, playing at Georgetown on Wednesday and at Louisville on Saturday. Virginia Tech falls to 4-4, 0-1 in conference.

Saturday: Duke Men 14, Loyola 8

We've seen this movie before: the calendar turns from February to March, and BOOM! Duke starts playing defense. After a taut first half, Duke clamped down on the Greyhounds, holding them scoreless for the final 27:17 while scoring seven in a row.

oyola came in 3-2, with solid wins over Penn State, Towson, and Lehigh and one-goal losses to Virginia and Holy Cross. Goaltending had been a question mark, but Graham Savio had been superb on faceoffs, coming in winning 63.9 percent.

For Duke, the suspensions handed out to Kyle Keenan, Brian Dailey, and Chris Coady were finally lifted, and Case Matheis tested his balky hamstring by starting on attack. Dailey took his accustomed spot as the primary LSM and faceoff wing, and Keenan stepped into the second midfield alongside Tanner Scott and Jake Seau, with Thomas Zenker adding to the Blue Devils' already deep pool of quality SSDMs.

After the game's first three possessions ended with unforced turnovers, Duke finally cleared and was able to settle into its half-field offense. Deemer Class got free deep in the left alley and slipped a bouncer from a sharp angle past Loyola freshman keeper Grant Limone to open the scoring 4:33 into the game. Duke went on to dominate the first quarter, leaving with a 4-1 lead after a sensational transition goal by Matheis with :05 to play. As the Greyhounds tried to set up for a final shot, Will Haus and Peter Welch ambushed Jared Mintzlaff just inside the Duke half, and in the space of three seconds Welch had a caused turnover, a ground ball, and a 40-yard laser of an assist.

Duke extended its lead to four goals early in the second, as Matheis wrapped two more goals around a long-distance strike from the top of the right alley by Loyola's Romar Dennis. Off the faceoff after Matheis' third goal, Limone came up with a superb save on Welch, and the momentum swung sharply in Loyola's favor. The Greyhounds went on a 4-0 run, helped by a switch to a 3-3 zone defense that Duke couldn't penetrate, and when Brian Sherlock pumped in his third of the half from high in the slot with 1:07 to go, it was 6-6 and the game seemed to be sliding Loyola's way. Jack Rowe and Danny Fowler had other ideas, however. Rowe emerged from a huge faceoff scrum with the ball and went all the way to restore Duke's lead, and Fowler (on in relief of Luke Aaron who had a shaky second quarter) stoned Nikko Pontrello on the doorstep with :08 to go, sending the Blue Devils to the locker room clinging to an advantage that looked very tenuous.

Loyola came out flying after halftime, and two goals by Zach Herreweyers, both on unsettled situations, gave the Greyhounds their first lead at 8-7 2:43 into the third quarter. Amazingly, that was it for the Loyola offense. The patience that Duke didn't show in attacking the Loyola zone in the second quarter suddenly emerged; Duke moved the ball crisply from side to side to create seams that they could step into for midrange looks. Myles Jones got two from the middle and one left-handed from the right wing, and Deemer Class chipped in a right-wing rip of his own as Duke scored four times on five possessions in the quarter. As the tempo slowed down, the Duke defense-in particular, the midfielders-tightened up, slides started to come from the right places at the right times, and Loyola missed on its last six possessions of the quarter. After Luke Aaron (reinserted at the start of the half) stoned Tyler Albrecht at the buzzer, Duke went to the fourth quarter with an 11-8 lead.

As the fourth quarter opened, Duke's new-found defensive stability continued. Down low, Ethan Powley and Greg Pelton controlled Herreweyers and Pontrello. The Blue Devils slid aggressively to Dennis, who had been a major problem in the first half, forcing the ball out of his stick, and continued to force turnovers (11 in all in the half). Jones shed two defenders in the right alley and beat Limone high with 10:38 to go, Class added two more, Aaron had a couple of saves and a nifty interception on an attempted cross-crease pass, and that was that.

Jones and Class led the Blue Devils with four goals and an assist each. Matheis contributed a hat trick, and Bruckner, Scott, and Jack Rowe chipped in a goal apiece. Justin Guterding suffered the first goalless day of his career, as he was on the wrong end of a string of excellent saves by Limone. Dailey was excellent in his season debut, with four ground balls and a caused turnover; his outstanding wing play helped Jack Rowe to a 13-for-25 day against Savio. Aaron and Fowler combined for nine saves. In all, the Duke defense forced Loyola into 18 turnovers and broke up three Greyhound clearing attempts.

Sherlock had a hat trick to lead the Greyhounds, Dennis and Herreweyers (who came in with 21 goals) had two each, and Pontrello had one. After a tough first quarter, Limone was excellent the rest of the way, recording a total of 15 saves.

With the defenses dominating, the game was played at a fairly slow pace; each team had 31 possessions. Duke out-shot the Greyhounds 48-26 on the day, including 21-8 in the second half, and had a 35-20 advantage in ground balls. Duke shot only 29.2 percent, but managed 45.2 percent offensive efficiency, while holding the Greyhounds to 30.8 percent shooting and 25.8 offensive efficiency.

Duke moves to 6-1, 2-1 against ranked teams. The Greyhounds fall to 3-3, 1-1 in Patriot League play. Duke travels to Georgetown on Saturday for a noontime encounter with the Hoyas, before beginning ACC play at the Carrier Dome on March 22.