CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – The Duke Blue Devils exacted a bit of revenge from the Maryland Terrapins on Friday night, downing the Terps 6-5 in the ACC Semifinals.
Despite the low score, Duke head coach John Danowski said the game was one of the more exciting contests of the season.
“[It was] almost a street fight. Physical, tough, but clean and fair.”
Maryland head coach John Tillman called it a slugfest.
For the second week in a row, Duke’s reinvented defense held an ACC opponent to just five goals.
“[It’s] very difficult in our sport to keep the focus and concentrate. You have to think there are going to be lapses, but I thought communication was on point and guys understood their roles and really stayed to the plan,” Danowski said.
Maryland had a good chance to tie the game after forcing a turnover with 84 seconds left in the second half.
Senior attack Drew Snider (one assist) and senior attack Joe Cummings (two goals) each had a crack at goal in the final minute. But Duke’s junior goalie Dan Wigrizer denied every shot attempt in crunch time.
“I love playing under two when we have a one goal lead. You know they’re going to shoot because they’re down and there is limited time left,” Wigrizer said.
The key, he said, was to, “Stay relaxed and expect a shot. Don’t be caught off guard with anything whether it’s one second left or 20 seconds left. Once you make the save you can worry about how much time is left.”
Maryland gave Wigrizer, who made 10 saves, plenty of credit after the game. But Tillman and Maryland players felt they left goals on the table.
“31 shots and five goals, we’ve got to do a better job there. Just get into a little bit better flow. To Duke’s credit, they’re very athletic, they’re very rangy guys and some of their scheme is to disrupt your rhythm so it’s hard to get a flow against them,” Tillman said.
The teams were primed to go into the half tied at 3-3, but Duke sophomore attack Josh Dionne scored with time winding down. Dionne (3 goals) was able to pick up a ground ball in the middle of an eight-person scrum and fling it blindly into the net, past Maryland’s sophomore goalie Niko Amato.
“We emphasize that everyday. So when the ball’s on the ground, I’m going to be fighting for it, I know everyone else is fighting for it. I was just fortunate to come up with the ball. Another thing we do in practice is knowing where the net is so I have full confidence in where the net is with my back turned to it,” Dionne said.
Those fluky goals happen against a transition team like Duke, Tillman said, and he credited his defense for holding the hottest team in the country to six goals. Duke has won nine straight games.
“It’s hard to win many games scoring five goals,” Tillman said.
Maryland dominated in the second half in their win against Hopkins the week before and closed out a win against Navy in similar fashion. But their fourth quarter struggles from earlier this season re-emerged against Duke.
Tillman said his team shot too quickly in the second half, instead of waiting for the best opportunity.
“Maybe it was the competitiveness of the game, guys wanting to make plays. We certainly have a selfless group, no doubt about it, I just think that guys felt like they could step up and help the team,” Tillman said.
With two high-quality wins this season, Maryland is still in good position to make the NCAA Tournament.
Junior captain and long-stick midfielder Jesse Bernhardt said the team is already focused on their game with Mount Saint Mary’s on Wednesday night.
“It’s behind us now. We still have a game next Wednesday, the following Saturday and then we play a good Colgate team [#10 in the nation and the second highest scoring team in the country] to end the season. We can’t let this ruin the rest of the season,” he said.