At its Best, Duke Looks Every Bit a Championship Weekend Contender


Andrew McAdorey had a career night against Loyola, scoring three goals and producing six assists.

DURHAM, N.C. — John Danowski, being a coach, wasn’t about to just let a blowout victory be a blowout victory.

His Duke lacrosse team committed five faceoff violations Friday night against Loyola. It got outscored in both quarters in the second half at Koskinen Stadium.

It also won 17-9, a triumph built upon a 14-2 advantage over the first 30 minutes.

“It’s March 10,” Danowski said. “We need to get better.”

The most striking facet of the Blue Devils’ performance wasn’t the three-goal, six-assist day from attackman Andrew McAdorey, though that surely stood out. It wasn’t even the distinct athleticism gap between Duke (6-1) and Loyola (4-2) that helped open things up quickly.

Instead, it was seeing a team that had just played a month’s worth of tight games — the Blue Devils’ last four contests were decided by a total of five goals, including two in overtime — uncork what it did and in the manner it did.

“We harped on the whole week just coming out fast,” said attackman Brennan O’Neill, who scored three goals. “We had a few slow starts, but this week we really emphasized coming out flying. We wanted to split the game into little segments and win each segment. We didn’t look at the big picture.”

Which just has to be about the best thing Danowski could possibly hear. When Duke was rattling off annual appearances on Memorial Day Weekend and winning three national titles in five years, it followed what almost felt like a script.

The Blue Devils would take time to work out the kinks, often taking an unexpected February loss. The pieces would start falling into place in early March, normally right around the time it played Loyola (a fact not lost on Greyhounds coach Charley Toomey). The cohesion would grow, and while there would often be a bump in the ACC tournament, that tended to crystallize just what needed to be done in May.

And what do you know? Duke absorbed its customary February loss this year at Jacksonville, a 13-12 setback that saw the Blue Devils squander a 9-5 halftime lead with a shaky third quarter.

“We had 16 shots in a quarter in that game and only scored once or twice,” Danowski said. “You start second-guessing. You always overanalyze when you lose. The Denver game, we were down and they had the ball with a minute to go, so you can say we were fortunate there. But a season has all these ups and downs and lessons to be learned.”

However extensive the lessons from Friday, they can be summed up in a sentence: Duke should keep doing what it’s doing. Both Danowski and Toomey pointed to the Blue Devils’ domination in collecting loose balls, a 32-17 advantage that prevented Loyola from stringing possessions together until things were out of hand.

And they got out of hand early, with Duke leading 3-0 before Loyola mustered a shot. Those goals came from the first midfield (Garrett Leadmon), the second midfield (Owen Caputo) and a long pole (Will Frisoli).

The attack joined in soon enough, as the Blue Devils shot 8 of 20 in the first quarter and 14-for-32 for the first half.

“I just thought we did a good job of playing together and moving the ball quickly,” McAdorey said.

The sophomore did his part, setting a career high in points and doubling his previous career high in assists. And it continued his process of settling in on attack at the college level after setting a Duke freshman record for points by a midfielder last year with 39.

McAdorey has 17 goals and 15 assists while starting every game this season.

“There’s subtleties to playing the attack position,” Danowski said. “You can be a midfielder and be athletic and use a lot of the field and run around, but the attack play is more cerebral and requires a very high IQ when you play behind the goal, and Andrew has that. He has a tremendous IQ. Now he’s learning to play from a different angle and a different perspective. It’s really encouraging on a night like tonight.”

As for Duke itself, it remains planted in late winter after a victory on a chilly, drizzly night. Danowski isn’t about to let himself or the Blue Devils think too far ahead, though he acknowledged the possibility the way this group has responded — by rallying from early holes at Penn and Syracuse — suggests it might have a welcome even-keeled quality.

But what Friday indicated more than anything is that at anywhere near its best, Duke is going to be a tough, tough out a year after missing the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006.

“They’re just very athletic,” Toomey said. “They’re very well-coached. As I told coach Danowski, you have an athletic team that’s going to be a bear.”

And it’s still only March 10.


Most Recent

Duke Well Stocked for Another Memorial Day Run in 2024

The Blue Devils’ fourth national title will have to wait for another year — possibly next year.

Accountability, Love and Trust: How Notre Dame Reached the Pinnacle of Lacrosse

It was never about revenge. Notre Dame's motivation came from within.

The Team That Got It Done: Notre Dame Downs Duke for NCAA Title

In their 43rd season, the Fighting Irish are national champs.

Snubbed in 2022: Duke, Notre Dame Meet for a Chance to Flip the Script

Two programs left out last year have handled 2023 differently, but will meet on its final day.

Twitter Posts