"I think it was our most complete game to date," head coach John Danowski said. "Certainly as a coach we saw a lot of areas where we could be better. I thought in the clearing game we threw the ball away several times where situations we need to look at and practice. I thought the fourth quarter we handled very well. During the past we hadn't handled fourth quarters very well. And I thought the seniors, Robert Rotanz and Justin Turri, led the charge with some great decision making on the offensive end of the field."
While improving to 14-4 on the season, the Blue Devils advance next Sunday's quarterfinal round to meet the winner of Massachusetts-Colgate at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. Duke has won 17 of its last 22 NCAA Tournament games dating back to 2005 and today picked up the program's first postseason victory over Syracuse in four tries.
"The NCAA tournament filled with tough teams," Danowski said. "Whoever you are going to play is going to be terrific. When we heard that it was Syracuse I think it got everybody's attention immediately. So the focus in practice all week was undeniable in terms of the guys' readiness to accept whatever it is that the coaching is going to throw at them. I thought that we had a great week of preparation. It's Syracuse. It's very hard to say that this is a different team. It's not. They are talented, athletic with a great coaching staff and a tremendous tradition. They are who we want to be one day. With all their championships and what they've accomplished in our sport. I thought their kids played hard. They played for 60 minutes. It was a hell of a Division I lacrosse game."
The Orange concludes the 2012 campaign with a 9-8 overall ledger.
The Blue Devils, who pushed their nation's best current home winning streak to 10 games and are now 59-6 (.908) at home under head coach John Danowski, jumped on top 3-0 in the first five minutes of action with Turri sandwiching two markers around a goal by Jordan Wolf. Syracuse's Scott Loy broke the ice for the Orange with 37 seconds left in the opening period.
After Duke received goals from Robert Rotanz and Christian Walsh to claim a 5-1 advantage, Syracuse countered with a four-goal spurt to tie the contest at 5-5 just 25 seconds into the third period when Kevin Drew scored on a feed from Matt Harris. The Blue Devils then responded with four consecutive goals of their own as Rotanz tallied twice while Josh Dionne and Walsh netted one marker apiece.
"We were attacking from X," Rotanz said. "Jordan Wolf and Jake Tripucka were doing a great job of finding the open guy. They were throwing great through passes to shooters up top and we just did a great job of shooting and getting it on net and finding spots where the goalie couldn't save. Obviously when you have the ball that much because of faceoffs it makes it easier to get in the flow offensively."
The two teams would trade the next six goals, with Dionne's second of the afternoon pushing Duke ahead, 12-8, at the nine minute mark of the fourth quarter. Matt Harris scored for the Orange with two seconds on the clock to account for the final margin.
Duke received a huge lift from Brendan Fowler and Greg DeLuca at the face-off X as the teammates - who both played for the Blue Devil football team last fall - combined to win 17-of-24 draws. Fowler secured 12-of-17 face-offs with six ground balls while DeLuca chipped in five-of-seven draws with three grounders and one assist.
"I have to give Ron Caputo a ton of credit who works with our faceoff guys," Danowski said. "They've been working hard all year, Greg [DeLuca] and Brendan [Fowler]. They just happened to get their shot today. I think originally the plan was we could bring CJ in kind of like a sixth man kind of thing. But because Brendan and Greg were doing so well it wasn't necessary today."
Now with 22 career points (13g & 9a) in NCAA Tournament play, Turri moves into seventh place on Duke's all-time chart past Brad Ross, who had 21 points (17g & 4a). Turri also moves into fifth place on Duke's all-time post-season assists list and into a tied for ninth place on the school's career NCAA chart for goals. With one more assist this year, Turri will become just the fourth player in Duke history to reach double figures in both goals and assists in NCAA action, joining Matt Danowski (25g & 32a), Zack Greer (35g & 17a) and Ned Crotty (17g & 31a).
Rotanz and Walsh finished with three goals each while Wolf had one goal and two helpers. The Blue Devils scored on 12-of-34 (.353) shots, marking their fourth-best percentage effort of the year and top mark since a 13-of-33 (.394) showing at Georgetown on March 23.
In goal, Wigrizer logged 12 saves against eight goals allowed for his 10th win of the year. The 12-save effort marked Wigrizer's second-highest total in NCAA play, trailing only a 14-save performance against Notre Dame in the 2011 quarterfinal round. Michael Manley aided the defensive unit with five ground balls and a game-best three caused turnovers. CJ Costabile posted a game-high eight ground balls for the Blue Devils.
Syracuse was paced by Tommy Palasek's one-goal, two-assist performance. Drew and Loy each scored twice while goalkeeper Bobby Wardwell was credited with 10 saves.
Duke is now 23-14 (.622) all-time in NCAA Tournament action and next week will look to advance to the program's sixth straight national semifinal. Under Danowski, the Blue Devils are 14-4 (.778) in post-season play.
"We talk a lot about playing for one more week," Turri said. "As a fifth-year senior this could be my last week of playing Duke lacrosse. So just to come out every day in practice and put on the pads, come out one more time next weekend in Philly, that's just what's driving me and the seniors. Hanging out with the guys for one more week and not looking past the day. Whether it's practice, a meeting a team meal and cherishing every moment we have with these guys. Because who knows we may never be as one group again so I'm not looking past anything."