February 11, 2014

Tuesdays with Corey: Carroll Soaks in Return to Field at Duke

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Casey Carroll started and played almost every minute on Saturday against Jacksonville in his first game since Duke's 2007 national title tilt against Johns Hopkins. (Peyton Williams)

The night before his first game in almost seven years, Casey Carroll joined Duke's senior class at the front of a meeting room in the building where the Blue Devils' lacrosse facilites are housed on campus in Durham, N.C.

Carroll, 29 years old, was seven or eight years older than those standing next to him, guys like faceoff man Brendan Fowler, attackmen Jordan Wolf and Josh Dionne, and defensemen Henry Lobb and Chris Hipps.

Duke's seniors, of which Carroll is a member as a unique sixth-year version, were presenting to the rest of the team what Koskinen Stadium meant to them; how important it was to protect their home turf and how to enjoy each game.

PowerPoint slides rotated through, starting with the history of Duke's venue and including the program's strong home field record since 2007, the current senior class' mark (29-4) and a Duke trademark — ground ball stats. "That's the first stat we look at," Wolf said to the room. Then each member of the senior class shared their favorite Koskinen moments.

Dionne remembered standing on the sideline watching Wolf's three-goal performance freshman year against Maryland, including a picture-perfect righty jump-shot overtime winner. Long-stick midfielder Luke Duprey mentioned a misfired pass by himself that somehow led to Case Matheis' game-winner in the NCAA tournament first round against Loyola last season.

As with any group of college students, there were typical jokes made throughout, but when it was Carroll's turn to speak, there was a sudden silence in the room.

Maybe something profound from the former first-team All-American who, since his last game — the 2007 national title game loss to Johns Hopkins — served four deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan as a U.S. Army Ranger? A guy who tore his ACL this time last year, when he was attempting to use his final year of NCAA eligibility the first time?

After setting up his point, about urging the freshmen to enjoy their first home game, Carroll said in his natural laid-back tone, "The fact that I'm standing here right now and there are 500 other Duke lacrosse alumni who would kill to be in my shoes says it all. It's the coolest thing you're going to do, until maybe you have kids, or something like that."

And the room laughed. Carroll is married and has two sons, Casey and John, both under 17 months. John is 11 weeks old. Carroll is on a roster with some players 10 years younger. His brings a body of work unmatched in college lacrosse, and all of sports, for that matter.

He was on the team in 2006, the scandal-filled season (he suffered a season-ending leg injury four games in before the year was canceled), and that fact is not lost on anyone in the Duke program. Nor is the late Jimmy Regan, who played for Duke from 1999-2002 and was killed in 2007 while serving in Iraq in the 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment of the Army. It's the same exact Battalion Carroll wanted to join when he had the chance. Carroll, even coming from a Navy family (his father and two brothers served) wanted to follow in Regan's footsteps and honor his memory. Carroll recites from memory the date Regan died - "Feb. 9, 2007" - by way of an explosive device near his vehicle while on patrol.

"If he says he's going to do something, he does it," Peter Carroll said of his son.

He did. From being stationed in Fort Benning, Ga., where Regan had been, and then making four deployments with the 3rd Battalion. Friends of Regan helped facilitate Carroll joining the identical battalion. In 2008, he was in Iraq. In 2009-11, he was in Afghanistan. Now Carroll is one of many to walk past a framed No. 10 Regan jersey outside the Duke locker room every day.

"To be back in that mindset is a lot of fun. I haven't been through that in forever."

— Duke defenseman Casey Carroll on his first game since 2007

Carroll is in the second-year of an MBA program at Duke's heralded Fuqua School of Business, just across the street from Duke's practice fields. When there's some time between team meetings, practice and doing classwork, Carroll sneaks back home with his wife, Erin, a former Duke soccer player, and kids.

"He's the first one in and out," Duke equipment coorindator Jay Bissette said about the after practice routine.

After the season, Carroll will start a job at Wells Fargo in Charlotte.

In the meantime, he's soaking up all he can this season. Tearing his ACL last year was a hurdle to overcome, and although Carroll rehabbed and was actually cleared to play with a couple weeks left last season (he traveled with the team to the final four, but didn't play), an intense summer internship put him behind schedule physically to the point where there were doubts about his ability to be ready for this year.

But Carroll started Saturday — almost 10 years since his first Duke game as a freshman — and played nearly every minute in the Blue Devils' season-opening 16-10 win over Jacksonville. With MLL draft pick Henry Lobb out with a leg injury, Carroll was counted on even more than expected with a sophomore, Jamie Ikeda, making his first career start next to Carroll and Chris Hipps on close defense. Carroll had five ground balls and three caused turnovers which shaking off the rust. On Tuesday, Carroll was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Week.

After his first game back, Carroll said, "I was joking with the guys that it was totally overrated and not fun at all. It was awesome. Just to be out there was a lot of fun."

Any moments he'll take away? He said the mistakes. After Jacksonville attackman Duncan Clancy scored on him, Carroll said he told Clancy on the field, "I'm not going to forget that one."

Duke coach John Danowski noticed, too, although he said in the week leading up to the game, "It's not like you can yell at him or anything." Even more, assistant coach Matt Danowski was Carroll's teammate and the pair grew up playing with and against each other on teams on Long Island.

"I think everybody is always trying to have a perfect game," Carroll said. "[Then] you have so many mistakes, you know what you have to work out. To be back in that mindset is a lot of fun. I haven't been through that in forever."

Then he went back to the locker room and got ready to re-join his family for dinner later. His dad and brothers were already in town, to watch the game, and for John's Christening the next day.

(For more on Casey Carroll, be sure to check out the April issue of Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.)

DeLuca Happy to be at Duke

Former Cornell head coach Ben DeLuca joined the Duke staff last week and is happy to be with the Blue Devils. (Peyton Williams)

In Duke's post-game locker room Saturday, new volunteer assistant coach Ben DeLuca got choked up addressing the Blue Devils players when it was his turn to give comments on the game.

After John Danowski and assistants Ron Caputo and Matt Danowski spoke about various parts of the just-finished game, DeLuca, who was fired as Cornell head coach in November, used the time to thank John Danowski and express the joy of being back with a college lacrosse program. That also happened when DeLuca walked in the locker room and let out an unprompted and loud Ric Flair-like "Wooooo!"

"Like coach has been saying [leading up to the game], you never know when something is going to be taken away from you," DeLuca said. "I want to thank Coach Danowski for this opportunity."

Players gave a hearty round of applause when he was done.

DeLuca is living at John Danowski's house as he gets settled for the season in Durham. The volunteer assistant arrangement came together rather quickly over the last two weeks. Danowski reached out to DeLuca two Wednesdays ago, and after talking it over with his family, DeLuca decided to join the Duke staff. He's working with the defense.

He was in the office seven days later. DeLuca's wife and two young daughters will remain in central New York for the season. And while DeLuca made it clear he's happy to be at Duke, he also wants to pursue a head coaching job after the season is finished.

Best Week

Besides Carroll, of course, Week 1 honors go to the Richmond Spiders.

What to make of Richmond's impressive regular-season varsity debut, a 13-12 loss to No. 9 Virginia? Kind of what we made of their fall debut, a hard-fought 8-7 scrimmage loss against Towson.

"I'm really happy with the way our guys played," Richmond coach Dan Chemotti said after the Virginia game Saturday afternoon in Richmond. "Nobody is happy with the result, but we're proud of the effort."

More than 4,200 fans watched the game in person, which added to the excitement. Freshman Mitch Goldberg had three goals and Alex Hatem, a Syracuse transfer and former Jamesville-Dewitt (N.Y.) High star, had two. Virginia, meanwhile, played without Ryan Tucker (disciplinary reasons) and played less than 48 hours after an overtime win against Loyola on Thursday night in Charlottesville.

As starts for start-ups go, Richmond joins High Point as the second program in two years to have solid first showings. High Point lost to Delaware 12-10 in its opener last year and beat Towson 9-7 in its second game. New programs are finding good talent.

Fellow 2014 start-ups Furman and Boston U. opened with a 13-6 loss to Lehigh and a 17-6 loss to Mercer, respectively. The fourth new Division I men's program for 2014, Monmouth, opens Feb. 22 at UMBC. Richmond faces Hartford in the Hawks' season-opener on Saturday.

Three Stars

Ohio State junior midfielder showed his stuff to an ESPNU-audience in the Buckeyes' season-opening loss to Johns Hopkins. (John Strohsacker)

Jesse King, Ohio State, Jr. M
The Canadian scored five goals in a 10-9 triple-overtime loss to Johns Hopkins and drew comparisons to Paul Gait from two different sources and mediums: National Lacrosse Hall of Famer Mark Millon on Twitter and ESPN reporter Paul Carcaterra on television.

James Pannell, Virginia, So. A
The younger brother of Rob didn't play much as a freshman. Things are different this year. He's scored four goals with one assist in each of his two games as a sophomore, including the OT winner against Loyola on Thursday and the final two goals against Richmond on Saturday, earning ACC Offensive Player of the Week honors on Tuesday.

Matt Rambo, Maryland, Fr. A
One Division I coach in the preseason said even though Maryland will play a bunch of freshman on offense, the Terps will be just fine. Rambo had four goals and two assists in a 16-3 win over Mt. St. Mary's. "Matt is pretty good in that mid-range area," Maryland coach John Tillman said afterward.

Looking Ahead

No. 4 Denver at No. 1 Duke, Noon ET Sunday
The Pioneers have beaten Duke three straight years. Denver squashed any notion of an Air Force season-opening upset with an emphatic 14-8 win. It was well-balanced and bodes well for the Pioneers the rest of the way. Fantastic freshman Zach Miller had two goals and one assists, senior midfielder Jeremy Noble, who was injured most of last year, had four assists and a goal. Wesley Berg had five goals and Hartford transfer Jack Bobzien had four and two on attack. Jamie Faus started in goal and played three quarters while Ryan LaPlante played just the fourth quarter.

Marquette at Hofstra, Noon ET Saturday
Marquette coach Joe Amplo brings his second-year program back to his old stomping grounds on Hempstead Turnpike. Amplo was an assistant coach at Hofstra for 10 years.

No. 13 Loyola at No. 8 Penn State, 1 p.m. ET Saturday
Loyola will look to rebound from a tough loss, facing a Penn State team that was very impressive in a 22-8 season-opening win over Michigan. This result likely will have NCAA tournament implications down the line.

No. 9 Virginia at Drexel, 1 p.m. ET Saturday
A week after a one-goal win over first-year program Richmond, the Cavaliers travel to face a Drexel program that has traditionally given Virginia fits in the early-season.

No. 10 Albany at No. 2 Syracuse, 4 p.m. ET Sunday
The Thompsons and the Great Danes open the season at No. 2 Syracuse. Last year: same time, same place, great overtime contest that put Albany on the national map for good.

End Lines

In a Monday night lacrosse matchup in the Carrier Dome, Syracuse beat Siena 19-7 and the Orange provided a glimpse of their long-term potential.

Attackmen Dylan Donahue and Kevin Rice combined for 17 points. Donahue tallied a career-high eight goals and one assist to finish with career-high nine points, and Rice had a personal-best eight assists. Donahue's goal total and Rice's number of assists were both one off the Orange single-game records.

There's been a lot of focus on Syracuse's newcomers like Randy Staats, who has also been great so far as well, but I have a feeling a bunch of guys are going to have career-bests this year, which may just be the way coach John Desko likes it. Keep 'em guessing.

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