January 31, 2010

Duke Stuns U.S. in Champion Challenge Finale

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff | Champion Challenge Blog

ORLANDO, Fla. -- One of the most hotly-contested debates of college preseason was whether Duke, ranked No. 1 in Lacrosse Magazine's Division I poll, or Syracuse was the best men's lacrosse team in the country.

On Sunday, the Blue Devils were arguably the best team in the world.

Duke erased an early five-goal deficit and Max Quinzani scored the game-winning goal with 5.8 seconds remaining to lift the Blue Devils to a 9-8 victory over the U.S. men's national team in the Champion Challenge finale at Disney's Wide World of Sports.

The U.S. had possession with less than a minute remaining and the game tied at 8, but Kyle Dixon stumbled near the restraining line and the ball popped loose. Duke long pole Parker McKee, a member of the 40-man U.S. training team who played for Team USA in its win Saturday over Army, emerged from the scrum with a feed from Tom Montelli and carried it into the offensive end. He fed Quinzani, who had time and room to shoot on the right wing. Quinzani fired a laser to U.S. goalie Adam Fullerton's right side to deliver the clinching goal in the upset.

After a Duke violation on the subsequent faceoff, Team USA had one last chance. Paul Rabil swam into the offensive zone and fed Brendan Mundorf on the crease, but Mundorf could not break the shackles of Duke's long poles to get a shot off as time expired.

"It's awesome suiting up with them, and beating them is awesome," said McKee, who is one of a handful of long poles that could be in line to return to Team USA next summer due to Shawn Nadelen's recent knee surgery. "I have my summer wide open."

The game started as a tale of two quarters. The U.S. dominated the first, jumping to a 5-0 lead on the back of a stifling defense -- spearheaded by an especially disruptive effort from Joe Cinosky -- and two goals each from Matt Zash and Drew Westervelt. Matt Striebel also scored on a rare invert dodge from behind.

Duke did not back down however. Freshman Josh Offit, starting on attack because LM Preseason Player of the Year Ned Crotty suited up for Team USA, got the Blue Devils on the board 59 seconds into the second quarter. Three minutes later, Offit struck agin, this time off a feed from Zach Howell as he sneaked around the left pipe unnoticed.

Stephen Coyle made it 5-3 on a nifty question mark dodge and blistering shot at the 14:52 mark.

Will McKee brought the Blue Devils within one when he beat U.S. long pole Eric Martin to the crease.

Offit tied it when he lost U.S. defender Nick O'Hara on a slick roll from behind the cage with 6:42 remaining.

"We've known about him since fall ball. He's made the coaches put him in," Quinzani said of Offit.

With reliable depth on attack, Duke head coach John Danowski might consider utilizing Crotty more at midfield this season.

"It does make you think about that a little bit," Danowski said.

The U.S. settled down with disciplined defense and patient offensive possessions in the third quarter, opening up a 7-5 lead on goals by Westervelt and Rabil.

But a spat of Team USA penalties in the fourth quarter, including three served simultaneously, opened the door for Duke's comeback. Zach Howell connected on consecutive extra-man opportunities to tie the game at 7 with 10:41 remaining.

Mundorf put the U.S. back up by one when he finished a cross-crease feed from Ryan Boyle with 8:59 remaining, but Duke responded when Robert Rotanz went top shelf on Fullerton from the right alley at the 5:46 mark.

The Blue Devils defense, minus All-American Mike Manley (hamstring) and long stick midfielder CJ Costabile (foot), held up on a U.S. extra-man opportunity to set up the game's wild final sequence.

Westervelt finished with three goals and an assist for Team USA. Offit, the Champion Challenge MVP, paced Duke with three goals, while Howell had two goals and an assist.

Fullerton made five saves in the second half.

Duke's goalie situation was muddied further this week when junior Sean Brady was suspended due to "conduct unbecoming a team member," according to a statement. Fifth-year senior Devon Sherwood got the start in goal, but was quickly relieved by Mike Rock. Freshman Dan Wigrizer then relieved Rock.

Wigrizer was hampered by mononucleosis at the beginning of preseason.

"Coming in, Mike Rock and Danny Wigrizer were one and two, respectively," said Danowski, who would not comment further on the Brady suspension.

"It's an unfortunate situation," he said. "Our hope is that Sean can return after the year, but for now, it's not possible. We never give up on anybody."

Sunday's game will air nationally on tape delay at 10 p.m. on ESPNU.

U.S. Developmental 9, Duke 5

Duke remained within one goal of the U.S. Developmental team until the game's waning minutes. Team USA scored three goals in the final 2:20 to pull away for a 9-5 victory.

Corrine Gandolfi finished a feed from Rachel Culp at the 2:20 mark to make it 7-5 U.S. Gandolfi struck again 73 seconds later on a free position to push the lead to 8-5. Kelly Berger delivered the final blow, a free-position goal with 36 seconds remaining to keep U.S. teams undefeated at Champion Challenge.

Shannon Smith led Team USA with two goals and two assists. Gandolfi and Berger finished with two goals apiece.

Junior Morgan Miller scored twice for Duke. Sophomore goalie Mollie Mackler was impressive in the cage, as she looks to secure the Blue Devils' starting nod. Mackler made 11 saves.

U.S. Elite 17, Duke 8

The U.S. Elite women's team jumped out to a 10-4 lead and kept the pressure on in the second half, rolling to a 17-8 victory over Duke.

Champion Challenge MVP Lindsey Munday (4g, 2a), Katrina Dowd (4g, 1a) and Jillian Byers (3g, 1a) combined for 15 points in the lopsided win. Erica LaGrow added two goals and an assist.

After Dowd's fourth goal of the game gave the U.S. a 16-5 lead with 5:58 remaining, Duke scored three goals (Alyssa Ogle, Monica DeMairo and Christie Barnes) in a two-minute span to close within eight.

Munday punctuated Team USA's win, however, with a buzzer-beating goal off a feed from Byers.

Morgan Miller led Duke with two goals. Barnes had a goal and an assist. Sophomore goalie Mollie Mackler was impressive, finishing with 11 saves while playing the entire game.

The goal of the game came at the 17:09 mark of the first half. Goalie Devon Wills helped kill a Dowd yellow card with some athletic moves in pressure around the cage. As soon as Dowd's penalty released, Wills met her in stride with a perfect 50-yard outlet. Dowd hauled in the screaming pass and took it to the cage to score and put the U.S. up 3-1.


Saturday's Results

U.S. Elite 23, Notre Dame 7
U.S. Men 15, Army 7
U.S. Developmental 17, Florida 8

Sunday's Results

U.S. Developmental 9, Duke 5
U.S. Developmental 17, Notre Dame 11
U.S. Elite 17, Duke 8
Duke 9, U.S. Men 8


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