BETHPAGE, N.Y.- Led by a five-point showing from senior captain Todd Baxter, 10th-ranked Denver outscored Duke, 7-4, in the second half to earn a 12-9 victory against the No. 4, and defending national champion, Blue Devils in front of a capacity crowd of 6,000 at Howard C. Vogts Field at Bethpage High School in what was the first “Battle at Bethpage.”
“This is a great win not only for our program, but for the sport of lacrosse in the area,” said Denver head coach Bill Tierney. “I can’t say thank you enough to John DeTomaso, who organized this event, the Town of Oyster Bay and all the people who made this event happen. I am so proud of the way our team competed out there and I think we really showed a lot of people what Denver Lacrosse is all about.”
Baxter scored four goals and added an assist, while Cameron Flint added three goals. Mark Matthews chipped in with three points off one goal and two assists, and sophomores Eric Law and Chase Carraro, the “Battle at Bethpage” MVP, each finished with two goals. Carraro also finished 12-of-25 on face-offs and tallied five ground balls.
Defensively, freshman goalkeeper Jamie Faus finished with a career-high 16 saves, including seven in the fourth quarter, in 60 minutes of action. He allowed nine goals.
The first half was a tight affair that featured three ties and two lead changes. Duke opened the scoring in the first three minutes of action on a transition goal from senior Terrence Molinari. Zach Howell assisted on the score. Denver would then even the game as Carraro snuck his shot past the stick of freshman goaltender Dan Wigrizer.
The back-and-forth action continued in the final 2:42 with the squads combing for three goals in that span. The Blue Devils opened a 3-1 lead with goals from David Lawson and Stephen Coyle. Seconds later, Flint notched his first goal of the game to make it a 3-2 game after the first quarter.
Law opened the second quarter with back-to-back goals (13:06 and 8:30) to give the Pioneers the 4-3 advantage. However, Duke’s Robert Rotanz, who led the Blue Devils with four goals scored with 7:58 and :48 left before the break to give the Blue Devils the advantage once again. Baxter evened things up just 15 second later, scoring his 17th of the season off a pass from Matthews, tying the game, 5-5, at halftime.
Duke held a narrow 20-19 advantage in shots and led 13-11 in ground balls after 30 minutes of play.
Denver started the third frame much the same way it began the second quarter. The Pioneers scored twice in the opening six minutes to take a 7-5 lead for good at the 9:09 mark as Carraro and Baxter both scored. Rotanz recorded his third goal of the game less than a minute later to pull Duke to within one, but Denver would never let Duke any closer.
Baxter added two more goals to put the Pioneers up 9-6 with 2:55 remaining.
The Pioneers scored three of the next four goals to open a 10-7 lead heading into the final minute. Rotanz added another goal for Duke with 24 seconds left in the stanza to send Duke into the final quarter trailing 10-8.
Matthews gave the Pioneers a three-goal advantage with 5:56 left to play as he scored his 27th goal of the season, and Flint’s empty-net goal (15th of the season) put Denver up by four with 2:09 left to play to, essentially, ice the win for the Pioneers. Duke added the final goal of the game when Zach Howell scored with 1:05 left.
Duke falls to 8-4 overall with the loss, while the Pioneers improve to 8-2 on the year. Five other Blue Devils each tallied one goal apiece with Howell and freshman Christian Walsh both totaling two points on a goal and an assist.
The Blue Devils held a 42-34 advantage in shots for the game and Denver won the ground ball battle 28-26. The Blue Devils won 13-of-25 faceoffs with CJ Costabile going 8-of-14 overall. In goal, Wigrizer had 11 saves for Duke.