Most Outstanding Player
Duke's Fowler dominates faceoffs to clinch Blue Devils' win
PHILADELPHIA -- You cannot score if you do not have the ball.
During Monday’s final of the 2013 NCAA Division I Lacrosse Championship, Duke’s Brendan Fowler dominated the faceoff X. It got so bad that Syracuse head coach John Desko was about to look to some of the 28,224 in attendance at Lincoln Financial Field.
“I told [Duke head coach] John [Danowski] after the game to buy his faceoff guy a steak,” said Desko, whose squad fell to Duke 16-10. “We just couldn’t get the ball in the second half.”
Fowler, a tough, football-minded native of Wantagh, N.Y., who was not recruited to play lacrosse at Duke, put together an All-American season in 2013. On Monday, Syracuse employed six different faceoff men, trying to find a way to beat the nation’s top specialist. Only eight times in 28 draws against Fowler did the Orange come away with the ball on Monday afternoon.
The success at the X spurred the Blue Devils to a massive third-quarter run that saw them take a 10-7 lead. Through three quarters, Duke held a 17-3 advantage in faceoffs -- in the third quarter it was 7-0. In the second and third quarters, Duke, and Fowler, held a 14-1 advantage in faceoffs.
It all added up to a Duke victory, the program’s second title in four seasons. To no one’s surprise, Fowler was named the Most Outstanding Player of the tournament.
“Obviously, winning faceoffs gets you the ball back and helps you score goals,” Fowler said. “I got into a groove and felt pretty good after some early nerves. It was a big stage, I think I kind of calmed down after that first quarter. Our wings were phenomenal all day.”
Syracuse’s Peter Macartney entered the postseason with one faceoff all season. After dropping all seven to open the second half, Desko sent him out against Fowler. Senior defender Brian Megill, with four in 2013, took a shot in trying to stem the Blue Devil tide. Two freshmen, Cal Paduca and Elliott Burr, and junior Chris Daddio, the Orange’s main man most of the season, also took shots. Junior Matt Harris tried his best.
“When you lose faceoffs like we were and they score and they get the ball back, score, get the ball back, score, get the ball back, it’s tough,” Medill said. “It takes a toll on your body, especially when you play defense as much as we did in that third period.”
“I think they started to wear down in that third quarter,” Danowski said.
Syracuse had a scoreless streak of 22:19 during the game and scored just five goals after building a 5-0 lead. Duke did not score until 16:06 of game clock had elapsed.
“The possessions dried up,” said the Orange’s Kevin Rice, who scored a goal and had three assists.
“[Fowler] is strong,” said Desko of an athlete who bounced back from a broken collarbone last season. “He has more than one technique, although we saw the one where he kind of pinch-clamped it and got the ball on the back of his stick allowing him to pick it up. He has great awareness where his wings are. He’s good at everything.
“I guess there is a reason he is an All-American.”
Amazingly, the best faceoff man in the country landed in Danowski’s program without his knowledge.
“We take no credit for recruiting Brendan Fowler,” Danowski joked. “We did not find out until May of his senior season that he was coming to Duke. He did everything on his own to get into Duke."
With possession all day, a number of Blue Devils took advantage.
Junior Jordan Wolf finished with four goals and two assists. The last time Wolf did not score a point in a game was the 2011 NCAA semifinals, which gives him a streak of 41 consecutive games. Josh Dionne and Josh Offit each added three goals as Duke outshot Syracuse 46-36, with 15 of the Orange’s shots coming in the opening quarter.
Syracuse will get another shot at solving Fowler in 2014 with the Orange joining the Atlantic Coast Conference.