Duke Getting Healthier, Stronger as Season Goes On


Duke's Brad Smith, limited by an injury early in the season, has seven goals and shares the team lead with seven assists.

February has a way of yielding some unexpected results, and few seemed as surprising in the moment as Duke’s 13-9 loss to High Point on Feb. 6.

The Panthers have more than acquitted themselves since then, adding a victory at Virginia while only tripping up once. Meanwhile, Duke (5-1) has stitched together a four-game winning streak entering Thursday’s meeting with Loyola.

Blue Devils coach John Danowski acknowledged after the loss that his team needed work.

“You can lose and feel good about it, and you can win and feel lousy,” Danowski said this week. “This was a double. We lost, and didn’t feel good about any of it.”

Perhaps that early result could end up benefitting Duke in the long run, as it seems is often the case for a program with a history of head-scratching losses in the opening month. But for the Blue Devils, it could be a reflection of the absence of early continuity that has since developed a bit with midfielder-turned-attackman Brad Smith healthy and helping to facilitate the offense.

Smith missed Duke’s scrimmage against Ohio State and its opener, and played some against High Point. He has seven goals and shares the team lead with seven assists.

“It’s the old story of everybody wants the guy who when you look out on the field, he makes you say, ‘It’s going to be all right,’” Danowski said. “When we went to Ohio State and played well, it was, ‘Oh, we dodged this for a little while.’ It wasn’t so much dodging if the team doesn’t grow. It doesn’t build that chemistry between individuals, and other guys try to do too much. Then you see, ‘I have to do this.’ Just be yourself. That’s natural when guys try to do more than they’re capable of doing. They mean well, but that’s not always healthy for the team.”

In the last four games, Duke has edged Denver, routed a Penn team it fell to last year and claimed a four-goal win at Richmond. The Blue Devils reached double figures in each game and have not yielded more than nine goals since their lone loss. Duke welcomes Loyola and Towson to Durham this month before beginning conference play March 24.

“We’ll know more about ourselves in the coming weeks,” Danowski said. “For us, like a lot of teams, we’re a work in progress. We’re still figuring out how to get better.”

Bucaro, Carraway pace Hoyas

Georgetown coach Kevin Warne figured all along that, if healthy, his team’s offense would be ahead of its defense in the opening month of the season.

He was right.

Daniel Bucaro has returned from an injury that cost him the final five games last season and has 19 goals and 13 assists. Jake Carraway has 18 goals and 11 assists. And Georgetown (5-1) has reached double figures in all but one game as it heads into a Saturday date at Fairfield.

“Your better players just have to play well,” Warne said. “You can’t take anything or anyone for granted. They’re two of our hardest workers and we have to calm them down in practice sometimes. I’m certainly not surprised, but they’re competitive as all heck. Our guys look up to them and go ‘Wow, that’s the way it’s supposed to be done.’ I think that’s a really good thing.”

Five of the seven players on Georgetown’s starting defensive unit are in their first year in such elevated roles. Little wonder the Hoyas gave up at least 10 goals in each of their first four games, including 14 in a loss to Towson.

They showed progress in the last week, giving up six to Hofstra on the road before blanking Furman for more than 29 minutes in the middle of an 18-6 rout on Tuesday.

“At the end of the day, we want to make sure we’re balanced at both ends of the field,” Warne said. “We knew early on, the offense would carry the load a little bit. I know for a fact our defensive personnel group would love to have the Towson game back. I don’t think that was a true indication of who we were, but that’s who we were that day. We’ve simplified some things and we want those guys to play a little bit faster.”

Notable numbers


NJIT senior Aaron Forster broke his own school record Saturday with nine goals in a 16-14 loss to Quinnipiac. The previous high for Forster  and any Highlander — was a five-goal showing against Rutgers in 2017.


Michigan senior Brett Noseworthy became the Wolverines’ career goals leader in a 16-11 defeat of St. John’s. Noseworthy has 94 goals, passing former teammate Ian King’s total of 93.


Detroit Mercy’s Alex Jarzembowski has set the Titans’ single-game faceoff record twice in as many weeks. After claiming 19 of 30 draws in a defeat of Marquette on Feb. 23, the junior was 27 of 33 as Detroit edged Bellarmine 15-14 on Saturday.

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