BALTIMORE -- For 30 minutes Monday, it looked like Duke would run away with its third national championship since 2010. Notre Dame's Fighting Irish, however, made the Blue Devils work for it.But like 2013, when head coach Jon Danowski's squad needed possession, they turned to Brendan Fowler. Clinging to a one-goal lead in the final minute Fowler, again, proved to be big at the face-off X. A senior from Wantagh, New York, Fowler outdueled Liam O'Connor and seconds later Tewaaraton finalist Jordan Wolf slammed home an empty-net goal to clinch Duke's second consecutive NCAA championship in men's lacrosse in front of 25,587 at M&T Bank Stadium.
It was the Blue Devils' third championship since 2010.
"You know, it's Duke," Blue Devil head coach Jon Danowski said. "We have this tremendous opportunity, we have a tremendous support staff, strength staff, sports performance staff, sports psychologist. We have so many people who are a part, who their job is just to help individual students reach their potential.
"You're just part of this big, you're part of this big educational kind of … just trying to fit in. I think it's just a mix of tremendous character young men and a place that provides them an opportunity to grow."
Danowski's squad lead 5-1 at halftime only to see Notre Dame make a charge behind freshman Sergio Perkovic, who scored all five of his goals in the final 30 minutes. The Blue Devils (17-3) held Notre Dame to nine first-half shots, shadowing Matt Kavanagh.
"We tried to limit [Kavanagh's] touches," Danowski said. "We tried to force him underneath. [Henry Lobb] covered him in South Bend [Indiana] the first weekend in April, so he had experience."
Kavanagh, the Irish's offensive spark plug, was poked, jabbed, annoyed, and harassed by Duke defenders, mainly the senior Lobb, in the opening half. The 5-foot-8 Kavanagh entered Monday with a team-leading 40 goals after scoring five in the 11-6 semifinal victory against Maryland on Saturday; he did not get off a shot until 8:05 remained in the second quarter. He scored two goals and had an assist on the final stat sheet.
"They like to press out and be aggressive," said Kavanagh, a sophomore. "[Turnovers] weren't caused, they were turnovers where we were just trying to make plays. I was kind of getting shut off throughout the game; wasn't really getting any touches, getting into the flow of our offense. It's a credit to them and their defensive scheme."
The defensive game-plan was executed more or less to perfection by Lobb, Chris Hipps and Casey Carroll. Short-stick defensive midfielder Will Haus got into the act, checking Kavanagh near the goal crease and immediately following that up with a fast break goal to put the Blue Devils up 5-1 with 3:23 left in the first half.
"I think, as a whole in that first half, just the whole unit played great," said Lobb, a senior from Narbeth, Pennsylvania. "Casey Carroll, Chris Hipps, Luke Duprey being out there, Charlie, short-stick D-middies, just kind of playing behind me. I wasn't, honestly, on the ball much and wasn't really involved much. All the credit has to go to them more."
During the first 30 minutes, Notre Dame had more turnovers (11) than shots.
"We thought all along that the last 20 minutes of the game were going to be where the game was decided," said Irish 26th-year head coach Kevin Corrigan, whose club finished 12-6. "We knew we were deeper, we knew we would be stronger in the last 20 minutes, and we were, we just came up short [Monday].
"We were so bad in the first half. I look at the turnovers we had, that's a game's worth in the first half."
The Blue Devils built the lead on goals by Christian Walsh, Deemer Class, Myles Jones and Haus.
Notre Dame began to find a few seams in the third period, getting two goals by Perkovic and another, the first of his career, by Baltimore freshman Ben Pridemore.
Kavanagh picked up a ground ball, immediately turned and rushed the net for his second of the day to pull the Irish to within 8-5 at 13:42 of the final quarter.
A Perkovic rocket made it 8-6 at 11:01. Kavanagh assisted on the extra-man goal and set a school record for points in a season at 75.
Wolf then dipped and dodged his way to the net, finishing at 9:56 to give Duke a three-goal cushion.
Notre Dame did not quit, as expected, immediately coming back when O'Connor won a face-off, drove hard to the net, and found John Scioscia on the doorstep for a goal and 9-7 on the scoreboard.
Perkovic's fourth made it 9-8 at the five-minute mark.
Wolf righted the ship for Duke, finding Kyle Keenan at 2:39 for 10-8 advantage. But, yet again, Perkovic, the rookie from Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, released a rocket and it was 10-9 with 49 seconds left on the clock.
Enter Mr. Fowler, who was not dominant all day … just when it counted at the end.
Wolf's final game included two goals, four assists and the tournament's outstanding player award. On Thursday, the Tewaaraton winner will be announced.
"This one is a little more sad just because it's my last game at Duke," said Wolf, who scored his 300th point Sunday to rank second all-time at Duke and ninth on the NCAA list. "I love this university, I love my teammates, my coaches. I couldn't ask for four better ones."