ANNAPOLIS, Md.ó Senior attackman Ned Crotty scored two goals and handed out six assists to lead third-seeded Duke to a 12-11 win over sixth-seeded North Carolina and guide the Blue Devils to their third consecutive national semifinal appearance. A crowd of 12,142 at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium witnessed Duke’s 11th straight win over the Tar Heels on an overcast and cool Sunday afternoon.
Duke (15-3) advances to face second-seeded Syracuse next Saturday at 12 p.m., on espn2 at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The national semifinal berth is the fifth in school history (1997, 2005, 2007, 2008 & 2009), where Duke holds an all-time record of 2-2. North Carolina ends its season at 12-6. Saturday’s second semifinal will feature top-seeded Virginia against fifth-seeded Cornell at 2 p.m. Tickets are all-session for $93.00 per ticket. The cost of ticket includes parking. The ticket office will sell tickets until Tuesday 4:30pm. Ticket sales are live at goduke.com as of 6:30pm on Sunday night and phones will be open 8:30 - 4:30pm Monday and Tuesday.
Since the arrival of head coach John Danowski prior to the 2007 season, the Blue Devils are 50-8 overall including a 16-1 ledger versus ACC opponents. Duke has now won 10 of its last 13 NCAA Tournament games and improved to 16-6 all-time in the event when scoring 10 or more goals.
“I thought our guys played hard,” Danowski said. “It wasn’t always smooth, but the effort was there, that is for certain. We figured out how to hang in there and how to win and I think that will help us a whole lot in the long run.”
“It’s very fulfilling [advancing to the semifinals], probably much more than the two trips before, just because of how far we’ve come,” Crotty said. “No one thought we would be in this position. We have come a long way. Everybody’s grown quite a bit.”
With his eight-point effort, Crotty moves into the NCAA lead for total points in 2009, passing North Carolina’s Billy Bitter who entered Sunday’s contest one point ahead of Crotty, 69-68. Crotty now has 76 points on the year including a nation’s-best 53 assists. Bitter was held to just two assists against the Blue Devils, with sophomore defenseman Michael Manley drawing the primary assignment.
“Manley did a great job on him,” said Tar Heel head coach Joe Breschi. “Manley is a terrific defender.”
“I think guys are sticking to the offense,” Crotty said. “Personally, I had a rough start at the beginning and wasn’t dodging too well. I just kept playing with my head up and stuck with it. Our guys kept moving around. I kept my head up and I was able to find them.”
Duke got goals from eight different players with sophomore Zach Howell leading the way with three goals. North Carolina was led by Wagner and Delaney with three tallies each.
The Blue Devils jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after stifling the Tar Heel offense in the first eight minutes. Howell opened the run with the first two scores in a 2:07 span. The first came when Howell took the ball from behind the cage and beat his defenseman to the crease and dumped it past Tar Heel goalie James Petracca.
Minutes later Howell struck again for the Blue Devils. He found his way to the doorstep again and beat Petracca on the near post for the early 2-0 lead. After another good defensive stop, the Blue Devils quickly cleared. Junior Max Quinzani’s shot from the right wing flew wide of the cage and was picked up by Crotty. The New Vernon, N.J., native stepped behind the cage and found Quinzani again on the right wing. This time the Blue Devils’ sharpshooter buried the ball in the corner for a 3-0 lead at the 6:38 mark.
Perhaps the biggest play of the first quarter came a few minutes later when the Blue Devils killed off a two-man down penalty to keep it a 3-0 game.
The Tar Heels quickly responded with a 4-0 run, holding Duke scoreless for the next 14:05. The Blue Devils answered right away with four unanswered to go back in front 7-4. Crotty contributed a goal and two assists in the run that put the Blue Devils in front 7-4 at the break.
The Tar Heels came out of the gates hard as Sean Delaney scored just 52 seconds into the third quarter to make it a 7-5 game. A forced turnover by Tom Montelli gave Duke the ball in their offensive zone again. Crotty stepped up for the fifth time of the day, feeding senior Mike Catalino who put the Blue Devils back in front by three, 8-5 with 11:23 remaining in the third quarter.
The two squads traded goals over the remaining 11 minutes of the quarter with North Carolina getting the final marker to make it a 10-8 game in Duke’s favor going into the final frame.
Looking to pull away in the fourth quarter, Duke quickly made it a four-goal game with a pair of tallies in 12 seconds. Crotty assisted on both scores, feeding Howell and Tom Montelli. The score by Montelli was the second of his career, while Crotty registered his career-high tying sixth assist with the pass.
Rookie Rob Rotanz nearly made it a 13-8 game, but Petracca came up with a huge save to keep the game within four.
North Carolina rallied over the final nine minutes to pull within one goal. Dunster and Matthias McCall tallied extra man goals before Wagner fired in his third marker of the day with 6:10 remaining to make the score 12-11. The Blue Devils were able to withstand the run and escaped with the victory when Delaney’s shot at the final buzzer sailed high.
Senior goaltender Rob Schroeder finished with 11 saves on the afternoon in the Duke net including four in the final period. For North Carolina, goalkeeper James Petracca was credited for eight saves.
** Duke improves to 16-12 all-time in NCAA Tournament action including a 5-5 record in national quarterfinal tilts
** Duke won the ground ball battle on Sunday by a 36-30 count, marking the first time this season an opponent has recorded more grounders than the Tar Heels
** The scoring tandem of Crotty and Quinzani combined for 10 points on four goals and six assists, and stand as the top scoring duo in the nation with 129 total points.
** Parker McKee was credited with 12 ground balls for his second straight double figure outing ... McKee had a career-high 14 grounders in Duke’s first round win over Navy
** Crotty now has 53 assists on the year, a total that stands three helpers shy of the school and ACC record of 56 set by Duke’s Matt Danowski in 2008
** Duke has now won nine straight games since dropping a 10-6 decision to Cornell on March 17 ... The nine-game streak matches the fourth longest in school history and is the longest current active win streak in the nation.