Championship squads have star power, but it's teamwork that makes them whole
PHILADELPHIA -- Both participants in Monday’s 2013 Division I Men's Lacrosse Championship matchup have their stars.
Duke’s faceoff man, Brendan Fowler, showed why he is an All-American during Saturday’s semifinal win against Cornell. Jordan Wolf, with the game in the balance, flashed to the goal and all but ended the Big Red's hopes.
For Syracuse, a few stars have been identified during the final three minutes in two consecutive games -- JoJo Marasco, Luke Cometi and Derek Maltz just to name a few.
However, what makes these two programs successful, especially during the 2013 championship, are the options available to two very balanced teams.
In the Orange’s 7-6 victory against Denver on Saturday, a game in which head coach John Desko’s squad trailed 6-2 in the third quarter, five players scored at least one goal with 12 delivering at least one shot.
Duke, in a 16-14 win against Cornell in the semifinals, had nine different goal scorers with 11 players registering at least one shot.
“When you’re talking about teams, everybody wants to write about individuals,” said Duke head coach John Danowski, whose Blue Devils face Syracuse for the national championship at 1 p.m. ET Monday. “That’s your greatest opponent is a team. Individuals can sometimes have a bad day, can hit the pipe … have a fight with their girlfriend the night before. But teams are tough to defend, and that’s why [Syracuse is] the No. 1 seed, and that’s why they’re still alive.”
Marasco, a Tewaaraton Award finalist and Big East Midfielder of the Year, had two goals and three assists Saturday. The All-American senior takes a team-leading 58 points into Monday. Cometi’s three goals against Denver pushed his team-leading total to 33. Five Orange players have at least 20 goals. All-American senior Brian Megill anchors a solid defensive unit with junior Dominic Lamolinara the man in goal.
“I definitely think that Syracuse has a lot of individual players that can dominate matchups, so I think it’s going to be going back to basics and doing what we do best to try and crack their defense,” Duke’s Jake Tripucka said.
“Every team has a key player, but yet you want to defend their entire team,” Danowski said. “[JoJo] Marasco has fabulous numbers, especially for a midfielder, his assists, and guys know when to make their cuts off him; they have a great synergy together. They have a great team dynamic when he has the ball. But you’ve got to defend the whole team.”
Advancing to the NCAA semifinals for a seventh consecutive season, Duke certainly has plenty of star power. Wolf, a junior from Pennsylvania, scored four times and added an assist against Cornell, moving his season points total to 79. Josh Dionne scored twice and takes 42 goals into Monday. Five Duke players have at least 20 goals; six have totaled at least 40 points in 2013.
“I want a balanced team and a team that shares the ball and is unselfish,” Danowski said. “Every year it doesn’t always work out that way. Some years you have four offensive midfielders, some years maybe it’s only three, or you have an inside guy or you have to kind of do with what you have.
“But this year we’ve been blessed with six really athletic midfielders. Our two freshmen, while they didn’t score [Saturday], have 26 goals between them. I’ve never had -- we’ve never coached a team where two freshmen midfielders have scored 26 goals. We’ve had tremendous balance from day one, and [Saturday] was nine different individuals getting goals and eight different individuals getting assists.”
Desko knows it will take a group effort at both ends and in the middle to get by the Blue Devils.
“I think they really understand their offense,” said Desko, in search of the program’s 11th NCAA title. “They know where people are going to be, and they understand when the other team slides from a certain person or a certain spot on the field what their looks are, whether to throw down or back up or look to the inside. And again with those two middies, especially the two middies up top, I think they really can stretch your defense because of their ability to shoot from the outside.”
Duke’s incredible run of seven consecutive NCAA semifinal appearances includes a championship in 2010 and a finals loss in '07. The Blue Devils also lost in the 2005 NCAA title game.
Syracuse has played in 16 NCAA championship game and actually won 11 titles -- the 1990 trophy was vacated by the NCAA Committee on Infractions.