DURHAM, N.C.-The Duke men's lacrosse program has advanced to eight NCAA semifinals in program history, including in each of the past six seasons under head coach John Danowski. The Blue Devils begin their quest for a ninth appearance at championship weekend, hosting Denver Feb. 9 at 12 p.m.
Duke made its debut in lacrosse's final weekend in 1997 under the direction of Mike Pressler. Behind the play of first team All-Americans Jim Gonnella and David Stilley, the Blue Devils went 9-2 in the regular season and finished as the ACC Tournament runners-up.
The first round of the NCAA Tournament pitted Duke against Brown with the Blue Devils dispatching the Bears 11-6 in West Point, N.Y. Duke came back the following weekend and won a 12-11 overtime thriller over Johns Hopkins to set up a meeting with Princeton in the program's first NCAA semifinal appearance. Duke, seeded fifth, lost a heartbreaker to the perennial power Tigers, 10-9, to finish the season ranked fifth with a 12-4 overall record.
After a seven-year hiatus from the NCAA semifinals, the Blue Devils started to become a regular in the hunt for a NCAA Championship. In 2005, with Zack Greer, Matt Danowski, Matt Zash, Aaron Fenton and a host of other standout Blue Devils, Duke headed into the NCAA postseason with a 14-2 record.
Duke, as the No. 2 seed in the tournament, cruised through the first two rounds against Fairfield and Cornell before meeting up with ACC foe Maryland in the semifinals. The Blue Devils dominated the Terrapins in an 18-9 win to move into the championship game against rival Johns Hopkins where the Blue Jays captured the 9-8 victory.
In 2007, under the direction of new head coach John Danowski, the Blue Devils started what has since become a regular occurrence. Duke again went through the regular season and ACC postseason with an impressive 14-2 record and an ACC Tournament title. Seeded first overall, Duke had no problems in the first two games, winning by an average of 11.5 goals. The Blue Devils faced a taller task in the semifinals with a rematch against Ivy League foe Cornell. All square at 8-8 in the final moments of the game, Duke won a faceoff and Greer scored to lift the Blue Devils to their second NCAA Championship game against Johns Hopkins. The title tilt was a tight one again as the Blue Jays posted another one-goal victory over Duke to win the national title.
The next two seasons saw the Blue Devils advance to two more NCAA semifinals, but falling just short of the ultimate prize. In 2010, Duke finally reached the pinnacle. With a 12-4 record heading into the NCAA Tournament, Duke exorcised the demons of Johns Hopkins with a dominating 18-5 win over the Blue Jays in the first round. Duke continued what became known as the redemption tour when it defeated ACC rival North Carolina in the quarterfinals and then Virginia with a last-second goal in the semifinal round.
Two days removed from a 14-13 heart-stopping victory over the Cavaliers, Duke had to take on the task of finding a way to score on the Notre Dame defense. In a low-scoring affair that saw the Blue Devils and Irish even at 5-5 at the end of regulation, Duke needed just five seconds in overtime to lift the trophy for the first time in program history. CJ Costabile provided the dramatic game-winner after winning the opening faceoff.
Duke added a seventh NCAA semifinal to the list in 2011 with a 7-5 victory over Notre Dame in the quarterfinal and in 2012, Duke became the fifth team in NCAA history to advance to at least six consecutive NCAA semifinals. Both 2011 and 2012 ended with losses to Maryland.
The Blue Devils will face many challenges in 2013 as they search for a ninth NCAA Championship weekend appearance. Duke opens the year with Denver, Feb. 9 at 12 p.m., and hosts Jacksonville the following day at 12 p.m.
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