PHILADELPHIA – Sophomore goalkeeper Kyle Turri tallied a career-high 16 saves as Duke earned a spot in the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse championship game with a thrilling 16-14 victory over Cornell Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field. The title game appearance marks the fourth in program history and second under head coach John Danowski.
"For us once again it was a team victory," said Danowski. "A lot of guys making plays. I think it was nine different people scored goals, eight different people had assists. Greg DeLuca scored a goal. It was a short stick d‑middie, Billy Connors hits a pole. You know, a lot of people that really had a lot to do with today's victory and that has been certainly our MO all year is that it's a total team concept, and we were delighted with the effort of our guys for 60 minutes."
Duke improves to 15-5 on the season, while Cornell finishes the 2013 campaign with a 14-4 record. The Blue Devils are 13-1 in their previous 14 outings.
"Early on it took me a while to get settled in, but I felt like I was seeing the ball well today," said Turri. "They were giving a lot of low‑angle shots. Our defense was on their hands early, and I was pretty happy about getting my saves up."
The Big Red and Blue Devils traded goals in the opening seven minutes, but it was Cornell rattling off four of the game’s next five goals to take a 5-2 lead early in the second quarter. Duke trailed 3-1 after the opening 15 minutes with the Blue Devils’ lone goal coming from Jake Tripucka.
Duke pulled within one, 3-2, before Cornell responded with two unanswered for its largest lead of the afternoon at 5-2 with 10:17 to play in the half. The Blue Devils responded in like fashion with a 5-1 over the final 9:30 to take a 7-6 lead into the locker room.
Josh Dionne started the run with a highlight-reel behind-the-back goal to make it 5-3 and senior captain Josh Offit got on the board for the first time of the afternoon three minutes later with a laser to make it 5-4.
The comeback continued for the Blue Devils with Philadelphia native Jordan Wolf beating his man to the left of the cage and putting a shot past AJ Fiore for a 5-5 score. After Cornell regained the lead seven seconds later, closed defenseman Bill Conners scored arguably the biggest goal of his career to even the score for the third time of the day. Twenty-three seconds later, Wolf finished a Case Matheis pass to give the Blue Devils their first lead of the afternoon.
The third quarter was all Blue Devils with a 7-0 run in the first 13 minutes to stretch the lead to 14-6. Scoring from Duke came from usual and unusual suspects with Matheis and David Lawson adding tallies, while Greg DeLuca netted his first career NCAA Tournament goal. However, Cornell’s Rob Pannell sparked a 6-0 scoring burst, registering three of his five goals to bring the Big Red within two at 14-12 with eight minutes to play in the fourth quarter.
An unassisted marker by Lawson pushed Duke’s lead back to three, but a pair of scores by Cornell’s Max Van Bourgondien and Connor Buczek closed the gap to one at 15-14 with less than two minutes left on the clock. Following a critical faceoff win by Brendan Fowler, Wolf provided the answer for the Blue Devils, tacking on his fourth goal of the day with 39 seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Wolf led the Duke attack with five points on four goals and one assist while Tripucka also posted a hat trick in the win. Fowler went 16-of-31 for the game at the faceoff X, collecting 12 ground balls. The junior from Wantagh, N.Y., also became the NCAA’s single-season record holder during Saturday’s contest with 319 wins this spring at the faceoff X. Pannell paced all Cornell scorers with five goals and two assists for seven points.
Duke will face the winner of the second semifinal game between Denver and Syracuse Monday, May 27 at 1 p.m. in the NCAA championship contest at Lincoln Financial Field. The game will be televised live on ESPN.