Everything was on the line. The chance to go to the NCAA lacrosse Final Four for the second season in a row was all dependent on a sudden death overtime. One shot was all it would take, and Joe Robertson was there to take it. He bounced a goal in for the victory, sending Duke to Philadelphia for a semifinal matchup against Virginia.
Duke’s path to the Final Four didn’t come without resistance. In fact, the Blue Devils started their season with a crushing home opener loss to unranked High Point University. The Blue Devils would go on to win marquee matchups against No. 2 Loyola and No. 5 Towson. However, Duke struggled at the start of its ACC slate, dropping games to Syracuse and rival North Carolina. They later lost in the first round of the conference tournament to Notre Dame.
Yet, when tournament selection came around, Duke’s impressive wins overcame their 11-4 record and they were granted the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament, drawing No. 20 Richmond.
Duke was strongly favored going into the matchup against the Richmond Spiders, but advancing to the second weekend proved no easy task. Richmond played hard, with midfielder Tate Gallagher scoring four goals for the team. But the Blue Devils were able to run down the clock with a one- point lead to seal the victory and earn the right to a rematch against No. 7 Notre Dame.
Second Time’s a Charm
It’s truly something special when a team gets a shot at revenge in an elimination game, and this quarterfinal matchup gave Duke just such a chance. Watching the Blue Devils train, it was palpable how much they wanted a victory. The work paid off, and the 14-13 victory punched the team’s ticket to a second consecutive final four.
It was truly a game of streaks in the first half with Duke scoring the first four goals, followed by Notre Dame scoring four and then Duke scoring three in a row again. Six different Duke players scored in the first half alone, showcasing the depth of this team.
Although it remained close throughout, Notre Dame never actually got the lead until a Bryan Costabile goal made it 11-12 with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter. With only 1:24 left in the game, a Notre Dame goal by Brian Willetts would not only earn him a hat trick, but would send the game to overtime, in which Joe Robertson would hit that legendary shot to send the Blue Devils to Philly.
Reflecting on Duke’s season so far shows how built this team is to handle adversity. Between losing superstar players after last season’s devastating championship game loss to Yale, injuries plaguing the team and discouraging losses, it didn’t always look like Duke was set to make a Final Four run. Yet this squad showed again and again that they can take down the best of the best, which generates a lot of pride for Blue Devil fans regardless of how championship weekend went.
In the end, Duke fell to the Virginia Cavaliers in a double-overtime thriller, but the Blue Devils can look back with pride on an amazing season.