BALTIMORE -- It's nice to have options. Duke lacrosse knows all too well.
Minus a key cog in its offensive attack, the Blue Devils did not miss a beat on Saturday in the first of two semifinals at the 2014 NCAA Lacrosse Championships at M&T Bank Stadium. The reigning national champions got goals from seven different players and advanced to Monday's title game with a 15-12 victory against Denver.Against Bill Tierney's Pioneers, Kyle Keenan was often the first option. With senior Josh Dionne out due to injury, Keenan, a junior attackman from Smithtown, N.Y., scored a team-high four goals. Tewaarton Award finalist Jordan Wolf tallied three, along with rookie Deemer Class. Big Myles Jones added two goals, as did sophomore Chad Cohan. Senior Christian Walsh also put one in the cage.
"I don't think any of us were surprised by Kyle," Duke head coach Jon Danowski said. "We've talked about this pretty much ad nauseam, that he's a three sport athlete, quarterback in football, basketball player, lacrosse guy."
"I don't know, I just was in the right place at the right time," Keenan said. "I've got to credit my teammates. I got a bunch of great feeds, and just working with Jordan, Case [Mathias] and Dionne all week on my spacing and just being in the right place at the right time, and I think I was just fortunate enough to be there [Saturday]."
Those options, for Danowski, also included goaltending on Saturday.
Sophomore Luke Aaron started in net. When the Pioneers made a run to draw to within 11-10 early in the fourth quarter, junior Kyle Turri was sent on the field in relief. He made a pair of big saves midway through the period as the Blue Devil offense regained control of the scoreboard. Clinging to a three-goal lead late, Turri again came up big, stopping a point-blank shot.
"Well, certainly the starter kind of lost his fast ball, so we had to bring in the reliever," Danowski said. "You know, I don't think there's really too much science to it, but we needed a spark."
"Kyle Turri is a great player," Jones said. "It's very hard to come off the bench, especially without a warm up, and he came in there, commanded the defense, and when we needed big stops to stop their runs, I think he was a leader out there. The defense followed suit, and it was huge for us coming into that fourth quarter, and especially the third quarter when they had runs."
Defense and goaltending has been adequate for the champions. But it is the offensive end, led by Wolf, that makes this team so hard to deal with.
After Wesley Berg's goal at the 13:46 mark, Duke's attacking offense took control.
Jones, with a little shimmy and shake, finished with a left-handed strike at 12:09. Following a Pioneer goal, a streaking Keenan took a pass from Case Mathias for 13-11 at 8:44. Class, 15 seconds later, made the margin 14-11. The onslaught continued when Wolf found Cohan for 15-11.
Saturday was the first time since March 22, a span of 10 games, that Denver, who finishes 16-3, has given up double-figure goals in a game. Duke (16-3) scored 14 in the two teams' regular season meeting on Feb. 15.
"You get to the semifinals, the other team is going to have good players," Tierney said. "That's just the way it is. I'm sure if the roles were reversed you'd be talking about [Jeremy] Noble, [Erik] Adamson, [Zach] Miller, Berg … the whole bit.
"We knew they were going to get their goals."
Wolf has led the Blue Devils in scoring the last three seasons. Earlier this month he became the first from the program to be named all-conference four times. Next Thursday, he could hear his named called as the Tewaarton Award winner, given to the nation's top collegiate lacrosse player.
Wolf, a product of Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, showed why on Saturday.
The senior broke the game open in the second quarter, scoring three consecutive goals. The attackman was in the right place at the right time, turning a rebound of a Jones shot into a goal to give the reigning champions a 6-4 lead with 4:54 left in the half.
A little more than two minutes later, Wolf found just enough room over Denver goalkeeper Ryan LaPlante for a three-goal margin. Wolf's third of the half came thanks to a quick rush from behind the Pioneer cage that concluded with an over-the-shoulder strike.
@TheBigBadWolf31 gave his squad all the momentum heading into the break. Duke outshot the Pioneers, 25-10, in the opening 30 minutes.
"I had a little tight stick in the beginning, just a little bit of nerves, and I was fortunate that Myles shanked one off the goalie, and those little plays sometimes can get you going," Wolf said. "I took little advantage of a couple of match ups and I tried to let the game come to me as much as possible and just be the best for my team that I could be.
"We have a lot of choices on offense."
Wolf now has 62 goals, 34 assists, and is the only Tewaarton Award finalist still playing. Albany's Lyle Thompson, who set an NCAA record with his 122 points in 2014, is the odds-on favorite to claim the annual honor given to lacrosse's top collegiate player. With his performance Saturday, and with a chance to help the Blue Devils win a second consecutive NCAA title on Monday, Wolf still has a chance to sway a few voters.
However, as Wolf and his teammates know, there are plenty of options in blue and white.