The Duke men’s lacrosse team is heading to its eighth straight Championship Weekend to take on Denver in the NCAA semifinals. The Blue Devils will make the trip to M&T Bank Stadium for the first time since 2011 when senior midfielder Christian Walsh was a freshman. GoDuke.com caught up with Christian yesterday to talk about his final weekend with the Blue Devils.
GoDuke.com: What does it feel like to be heading home to Baltimore to play in front of your family and friends in the NCAA semifinals?
Christian Walsh: It’s awesome. I was there freshman year, but freshman year is tough going to a big final four game. I don’t think I was able to enjoy it as much as I would have liked to. That was a big thing I stressed even this weekend, just take the pressure off of me and realize it’s my last game and enjoy it. This is my last chance so I’m really excited to get back there.
GoDuke.com: How you do feel knowing that your first and last NCAA semifinal games will be played in your hometown? Do you feel like things are coming full circle?
CW: It’s really a dream come true. I’m a huge Ravens fan so M&T Bank Stadium is a special place for me, ‘The House That Ray Built.’ That’s really cool. Anytime you get to go back to your hometown and play in front of your friends and old coaches and family is awesome.
GoDuke.com: You guys have another Baltimore native in sophomore Deemer Class. Have you talked to him at all about what’s it is like to play on this big of a stage in your hometown?
CW: I’ve tried to with everybody. It is tough to be young and play in these final fours. It’s a different level of crowd and the energy’s greater. It’s just harder to manage your emotions. I’ll speak with him when the time is right, but he’s a mature cat for being a sophomore, so he’ll be alright.
GoDuke.com: The team uses the phrase, ‘One more week with the boys’ a lot this time of year. What meaning does that hold for you guys?
CW: I’ve got to give hats off to the seniors when I was a freshman, and the seniors all the way through. They’ve always done a good job of maintaining the focus of enjoying these times with the guys. At our house we’ve got 10 or 12 guys living together – what’s better than that? It’s just fun. When you win and get a chance to spend another week hanging out, that’s just what it’s all about. Win or lose, it’s just about the guys in the locker room.
GoDuke.com: Now that final exams and papers are taken care of, how does that help keep the focus on enjoying the process?
CW: I think our schedule works out nice. While it’s hard for the ACC Tournament, it’s nice going into the NCAA Tournament knowing that school is behind you and you’re basically a professional lacrosse player for as long as you win. That’s always fun.
GoDuke.com: There was a lot of pressure placed on this team late in the regular season and through the ACC Tournament. How did you and your teammates handle that?
CW: We had a tough go against Syracuse, but I think that loss ultimately humbled us again – kind of similar to last year, although it’s a different team. It kind of re-centered us, as Coach [Danowski] likes to say. We worked on some things defensively and we said we got a little bit ‘sticky’ with our sticks on offense, got a little bit selfish, and that kind of re-centered us. We’re good again and I’m excited for this weekend.
GoDuke.com: With the loss of senior Josh Dionne last weekend, how will his role shift and what will you guys do to make up for him not being out there?
CW: Obviously he’s going to slide into more of a coaching role. We told Moose, Kyle Keenan, before practice – Dionne’s going to be all over him all week and Jordan [Wolf]’s going to be all over him. With this team, it’s about the next guy. As Coach D says, it starts from the top. Our heart breaks for Josh Dionne because he embodies everything this team is about. But, next guy up.