DURHAM, N.C.-Duke junior Joey Manown scooped up a loose ball with eight seconds left and threw it in the goal to give the eighth-ranked Blue Devils a thrilling 10-9 comeback win over No. 5 Denver in non-conference men’s lacrosse action this afternoon in Koskinen Stadium.
Duke (3-1), trailing 7-4 in the fourth quarter, outscored the Pioneers 6-2 in the final 12:37 to capture the upset victory at home. The Blue Devils built a 9-7 lead with 2:51 left, only to have the two-goal edge erased with only 19 seconds remaining.
“I’m not really sure [what flipped the switch on offense],” said head coach John Danowski. “I think probably a little bit of it was facing off and we got a few more possessions. We scored a little bit in transition. We opened up the field a little bit and we probably capitalized on a couple of their mistakes as well. The game got ragged and we were able to take advantage of that.”
After the Pioneers tied the game, 9-9 with 19 ticks on the clock, Brian Smyth went out to the faceoff X and scrapped his way to the victory. Senior defenseman Cade Van Raaphorst picked up the ground ball on the draw and found Brad Smith, whose pass towards the middle of the field was just off the mark.
The ball bounced in Duke’s favor this time as Manown, all alone on the right side, picked up the ball and fired it in with six seconds remaining. Van Raaphorst came up big again in the final faceoff with another ground ball to secure the top-five victory.
Sophomore attackman Joe Robertson keyed the fourth-quarter comeback with three goals and an assist in the period. Robertson finished with a game-high four goals and five points, four of which came in the final 15 minutes. Senior goaltender Turner Uppgren was excellent between the pipes with nine saves, including three in the fourth quarter.
Denver (1-1), leading 4-2 at the half, went ahead 6-2 at the 9:34 mark of the third stanza. The Blue Devils responded well as they locked down defensively and regrouped offensively to close out the period with goals from Jake Seau and Robertson to pull within two heading into the fourth.
"I thought Denver, defensively, they knew exactly who our guys were," Danowski said. "They were very well prepared. They were all over us. We knew what was coming, but unfortunately things we had been practicing we really didn't execute. You tip your cap to your opponent, but we didn't do a good job of handling it."
The Pioneers’ Elli Geis extended the Denver lead back to three, 7-4, two minutes into the period, but Robertson and the Blue Devils had a different ending to the story in their minds as they scored five unanswered goals over the next 9:46 to go ahead 9-7 and set up a thrilling final 2:25. Geis led the Pioneers with three points from two goals and an assist.
Robertson started the 5-0 spurt at 12:37 as Manown found the sophomore on the doorstep in a textbook Duke transition goal. Just 27 seconds later, the Charlottesville native gook a path from senior Brad Smith and beat his guy on the crease to pull Duke within one, 7-6.
The Smith to Robertson connection struck again with 10:42 remaining to tie the game and Duke’s defense went to work for the next five minutes in holding the Pioneers scoreless.
Tied at seven apiece, Robertson showed off his vision as he fed a wide open Garrett Leadmon as he came out of the substitution box and beat his Pioneer defenseman to the crease. The goal was the first for the rookie and put Duke in front for the first time since it was 1-0.
Junior Kevin Quigley gave the Blue Devils a two-goal cushion, 9-7, at 2:51 as he finished in front of the goal with time ticking down on the shot clock. Duke struggled with turnovers down the stretch, much like it had all game and Denver capitalized with two unanswered, including the tying goal with 19 seconds remaining, to set up the improbable last-second finish.
Denver controlled the draw in the first half, winning 6-of-8. Rookie Jordan Ginder came off the bench to win 8-of-15 and picking up five ground balls. Smyth closed out the game with a pair of faceoff victories in the final 20 seconds.
Overall, seven different Blue Devils scored goals, including a pair of freshmen in Leadmon and Cameron Badour.
The Blue Devils remain at home next week against Penn. Faceoff is set for Feb. 23 at 3 p.m., at Koskinen Stadium on ACC Network Extra.