The game played out more like a grind-it-out Big 10 matchup. But instead of Ohio State playing smashmouth football against Michigan, it was No. 5 ACC powerhouse Duke slugging it out with No. 1 Cornell on the lacrosse field in Durham, N.C. While the Red offense came out of the gates laconically, the defense held down the fort until the attack turned up the tempo as the second half wore on, netting a fourth-quarter game-winner and a 7-6 win.
Senior David Mitchell scored his third hat trick of the season and sophomore Max Seibald had a goal and two assists to pace Cornell. The Red (5-0) was 1-for-3 on the man advantage and held the Blue Devils (5-2) to 0-for-2.
“We’re really happy to come away with the win,” said senior co-captain Matt McMonagle. “It is a very tough place to play and they had a little extra motivation after what happened last year off the field for them, so it feels real good to have that win under our belts.”
Playing in front of a crowd of 2,332, the Blue Devils controlled the pace of the game early on. Bucking recent trends, the Red was ineffective at the face-off circle, not winning a single battle until only 90 seconds remained in the half.
With the ball on the Cornell side of the field most of the time, Duke pummeled the net for 20 shots, doubling the Red’s shot total. The numerous opportunities led to a few goals for the Blue Devils, who started off the scoring when Bo Carrington streaked down the sideline before crossing the ball to Sam Payton, who went top-shelf on McMonagle for his first of two goals on the night.
Mitchell knotted up the score when he beat a double charging out from behind the net before he clanked in an off-balance shot off the cross-bar.
Duke continued to keep the Red defense on its toes, however, forcing defensive switches and mismatches with good movement. Danowski netted a goal as the period closed, and then opened up the second stanza with a goal to put Duke up two.
While Duke goalie Dan Loftus saw little action throughout the first half — deflecting only three shots — McMonagle anchored the Red defense, stopping six shots over the first 30 minutes. The Blue Devils continued to control time of possession and create opportunities by pursuing loose balls aggressively throughout the first half, scooping up 28 groundballs to the Red’s 15.
Still, Cornell pulled within one goal off a transition when junior Danny Nathan fired a long pass to Mitchell, who bounced in his shot. Duke answered with a goal merely 13 ticks before intermission to make the score 4-2.
“In the first half, Matty [McMonagle] came up with some big saves when we needed him to and we got lucky that a couple of Duke shots hit the pipes,” said senior co-captain Mitch Belisle.
Then, in the second half, Cornell took control on offense. The Red began to attack the goal, gaining an 11-9 edge in third-quarter shots. While Loftus stepped up to the challenge — batting away five shots in the period — the Red offense finally broke through while the Red defense held tight, McMonagle setting the tempo with two saves on Duke’s first possession.
Cornell found the back of the net three times in the first 10 minutes of the quarter to rally and take a 5-4 lead. Senior Henry Bartlett and Seibald filled the net from close range, before senior Brian Clayton whipped in a shot from 15 yards out to give the Red the lead.
“At halftime we knew that we weren’t playing that well and were still only down two goals,” McMonagle said. “We realized that we could play with [Duke] and that we deserved to win so we came out very aggressive in the second half and made a comeback.”
As suddenly as it lost its lead, Duke put in two goals to retake it. But the Red was unfazed and dominated the fourth quarter to take the contest. Senior John Glynn stepped in and solved Cornell’s face-off woes, winning all three of the period’s draws after going 1-for-5 in the previous periods. After winning the opening face-off, Glynn moved the ball quickly ahead to Mitchell who tied the game with his third goal. The Red continued to attack the cage while the defense completely shut down the Blue Devil offense, not allowing a single goal.
Cornell had 14 shots to Duke’s three, picked up 10 ground balls compared to four and even won all three face-offs of the period. The only statistic that Duke dominated was saves, as Loftus knocked away an astounding nine shots to give him 14 in the half.
For all of Loftus’ efforts, however, Cornell eventually wore down the defense, taking advantage of a man-up opportunity. Seibald pulled a lose ball away from a Duke defender and turned quickly to attack the cage. He penetrated the defense and drew senior Eric Pittard’s defender away. Seibald recognized the double-team and dumped it off to Pittard, who deposited the ball into net for the game-winning goal and a 7-6 Red lead.
“We just started playing very intelligently in the second half,” Belisle said. “When you combine that with our talent, it explains why we came out on top.”