May 26, 2014

Wolf Goes Out in Style; DeLuca, Carroll Have Special Days

by Corey McLaughlin | | Twitter | McLaughlin Archive

Duke attackman Jordan Wolf finished the season with a program-recrod 103 points and was named the NCAA tournament's most outstanding player on Monday. (Bill Danielewski)

BALTIMORE — Jordan Wolf sat there, just taking it all in. He had answered a question about reflecting on a stellar four-year career, one which he capped Monday with a second national championship, and two goals and four assists in Duke's 11-9 win over Notre Dame. He finished the season with a program-record 103 points and was named the NCAA tournament's most outstanding player.

"This one is a little more sad because it's my last game at Duke," Wolf said. "I'm just so fortunate to be at a place like this, and it just sucks that I have to leave."

Then Wolf stared off into the back of the press conference room at M&T Bank Stadium while his teammate Henry Lobb was asked a question about Notre Dame rallying in the fourth quarter. Wolf paused a few seconds and let out a sigh as Lobb began his answer.

What a career it was for Wolf, the quick-darting attackman from outside Philadelphia who burst on the national scene as a freshman with his trademark speed. He showed a little bit of that hard dogging to the crease against Notre Dame — namely on his first of two fourth-quarter scores, which ended a four-goal Irish run — but was more of a facilitator as the game developed.

In crunch time, he tossed a pass on the crease to Kyle Keenan, who scored to make it 10-8 with 2:39 left. The two-goal cushion was just what the Blue Devils needed to hold off the Irish from winning their first NCAA title.

Wolf tacked on Duke's final score in the waning moments. With Notre Dame trailing by one and looking for one more possession, Wolf beat two defenders in the corner off a restart, won a footrace with Notre Dame goalie Conor Kelly to an open net, and tossed in the last goal of his career, his 303rd career point.

"We had an off day offensively," Wolf said of Duke, which averaged 15 goals per game this season. "Their goalie played great. [Notre Dame defenseman] Stephen O'Hara held us tight... I just tried to not force anything and orchestrate a little bit more than usual."

It was an adjustment fitting for a season that saw the focus of Duke's offense shift from Wolf and his running mates on attack to the midfield with the emergence of Myles Jones and Deemer Class. The pair finished with nearly identical scoring numbers this year. Jones had 35 goals and 25 assists, and Class had 36 goals and 27 assists.

"Myles is a freak of nature. He listened to me, as a senior, and the coaches. He was extremely coachable. He's a very mature sophomore. Nothing fazes that kid. Deemer works extremely hard and no one shoots more than him," Wolf said. "I'm lucky. We just wanted to be pick your poison. If they're going to do a certain thing, we always had an answer. We kind of pride ourselves on being able to adapt to any defense thrown at us. That's kind of what happened at the end."

Wolf certainly did nothing to hurt his case for the Tewaaraton Award, which will be handed out Thursday night at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. He has a national title to his name, 100-plus points this season, including 23 in the NCAA tournament — tying current assistant coach Matt Danowski for the school record.

"That means nothing to me, honestly," Wolf said. "This is the most fun I've ever had on offense. Last year was a blast, too, but this has been unbelievable. I've been fortunate to be in a lot of good spots this year."

With Albany's Thompson brothers headlining the Tewaaraton race for much of the year — Lyle and Miles Thompson finishing the year with the two best single-season points totals in NCAA Division I men's lacrosse history at 128 and 119, respectively — Wolf's teammates took an opportunity post-game to make their case for Wolf to win the award.

"I think he's the best attackman in the nation," Keenan said.

DeLuca on future: 'Ears are wide open'

Ben DeLuca, who was fired as Cornell head coach in the fall and joined the Duke staff as unpaid assistant in February, won a national title with the team that he coached against in what ended up being his last game with Big Red in the final four last year.

"It's funny how things work out sometimes," he said outside the Duke locker room after the game. "There's been some tough times this year, but this is without a doubt the pinnacle of everything that I've gone through."

DeLuca lived at John Danowski's house upon arrival in Durham and eventually found an apartment of his own, albeit one without a television or refrigerator, while his wife and two young kids stayed back in Ithaca, N.Y. DeLuca said it was hard being away from his family throughout the season. "In order to do great things, you have to make sacrifices. I have to thank my wife for allowing me to make some of those sacrifices," he said, getting emotional. But the fact he was in essence on his own gave him plenty of time to work with the Duke program. He helped coach the defense with Danowski.

"He could come in early, he could stay late, he had really nowhere to go home to," Danowski said.

DeLuca took the post at Duke with the idea of pursuing other Division I coaching jobs after the season was over, but right now there are no openings nationally after Holy Cross hired Penn assistant Judd Lattimore as head coach on Saturday.

"I have no idea," DeLuca said of his future plans. "I'm happy to be at Duke. If nothing changes, I'd be thrilled and humbled to be part of the Duke coaching staff if I can, if that works out, if that's what best for my family and what's best for this program. My eyes are wide open. My ears are wide open. I think I'm going to try to take the time to enjoy this now."

Whatever happens, DeLuca said his time at Duke was extremely valuable and he learned lessons from Danowski.

"It's a focus on the big picture," DeLuca said. "There's a lot of focus on winning games, and winning in the here and now as opposed to winning for the long run. There's a lot of lessons I learned from coach Danowski in the way he led this team and managed this team, and some of the techniques that he employs to maximize the potential of the guys in that locker room."

Fitting end for Carroll

Former U.S. Army Ranger and 29-year-old defenseman Casey Carroll wrapped up his sixth-year, redshirt senior season at Duke in storybook fashion, winning an NCAA championship on Memorial Day with his wife and two kids in attendance. He had last played in a national title game in 2007, a one-goal loss by Duke to Johns Hopkins.

"The only word is grateful, for the people that have allowed Memorial Day to happen, for my family to support, and for my teammates and coaches. I'm just so lucky," Carroll said Monday. "It was never about coming back to win a championship. I was playing with house money."

Carroll posed for pictures on the field with his two kids after the game. Typical to his personality, he hesitated at first about attracting attention to himself and family.

"I wanted to hold them, but I also didn't want it to look like I'm using my kids for some photo op," Carroll said.

Carroll will begin a job with Wells Fargo in Charlotte this summer and said he will talk with his family about the possibility of playing pro lacrosse with MLL's Charlotte Hounds, who hold his rights.

"That might be a very short discussion," he said. "We'll cross that bridge when we get there."

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