The Ohio State Buckeyes men’s lacrosse team beat the Duke Blue Devils by a score of 16-11 in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals at Hofstra Saturday. With the win, the Buckeyes improve to 15-4 on the season--tied for a program best in wins with the 1965 Ohio State squad. After three previous losses in the quarterfinals in 2008, 2013 and 2015, the Buckeyes broke through this year to earn a trip to the semifinals in Foxboro next weekend. Duke, meanwhile, falls to 13-5 on the season.
Ohio State entered the game as the three-seed in the tournament, having defeated Loyola (Md.) in the opening round last week. Last week, the Blue Devils defeated Johns Hopkins 19-6 in Baltimore to earn their trip to New York. The Blue Devils’ head coach, John Danowski, is the NCAA’s winningest coach in Division I history with 383 career wins, including two national title runs with Duke in 2013 and 2014.
The Buckeyes won the opening faceoff on an effort by senior specialist Jake Withers, with senior attackman Eric Fannell scoring a left-handed goal goal 1:04 into the quarter on the game’s first possession. After trading shots, junior defenseman Ben Randall shut down a drive attempt by Justin Guterding, Duke’s leading scorer, forcing a turnover without getting a shot off.
Despite a lengthy possession midway through the quarter, the Buckeyes came up empty as freshman midfielder Tre Leclaire, the Buckeyes’ leading scorer, turned the ball over on a double team. And though Ohio State put up a powerful defensive front, Guterding hit his shot, shooting over senior midfielder John Kelly to put the Blue Devils on the board.
Then, at the end of the first with the shot clock on, redshirt freshman Lukas Buckley scored running through a double team with under 10 seconds remaining in the quarter to give the Buckeyes a 2-1 lead heading into the second--a lead they would not relinquish for the duration of the game.
The Buckeyes made shooting very difficult for the Blue Devils, with Duke hitting just one-of-10 shots in the first quarter against senior goalie Tom Carey. And while Duke picked up nearly twice as many groundballs and got off 10 shots to Ohio State’s four, the Buckeyes still dominated the game early, controlling the clock and scoring on their own terms.
Fannell had the first goal of the second quarter, which started with a pick from Buckley behind the goal, opening sophomore attackman Jack Jasinski for the feed to Fannell in front of the goal. Shortly thereafter, Fannell earned his hat trick on a one-on-one matchup, forcing Duke to call a time out with 12:37 remaining in the half. Duke won the ensuing faceoff and scored on the next possession to pull within two. Withers won the subsequent faceoff, but Duke gained control after a shot by Leclaire, scoring on the next possession to make it a one-goal game.
Senior attackman Austin Shanks then scored on a man-up opportunity just seconds into the next possession on a feed from Fannell--his eighth man-up goal of the season. With another Duke penalty, senior midfielder Johnny Pearson scored on a long shot with another assist from Fannell with 8:51 remaining in the quarter. After another shot by Pearson on the next possession, however, Duke gained control and scored to stay within two. But junior defenseman Freddy Friebott controlled the ensuing groundball and immediately took the ball on offense and scored. Withers won the next faceoff and, after two shots by the Buckeyes, Leclaire found the back of the net for his first score of the game. Capping off the seven-goal quarter, senior midfielder J.T. Blubaugh scored his first of the game on an assist from Pearson to give the Buckeyes a 9-4 lead at the break.
Seven different players scored in the first half, shooting 50 percent overall. The defense, however, proved to be the most dominant force on the field, forcing poor, low angle shots by Duke or no shots at all from the nation’s seventh-best scoring offense.
Ohio State slowed things down, but never let up throughout the third quarter. Carey had a masterful save to open the third--one of his 14 saves on the day. While Duke maintained control of the ball, a turnover forced by Logan Maccani gave the Buckeyes possession, but the Buckeyes could not capitalize on a man-up opportunity on attack. Duke then scored on a man-up chance of their own after an off-sides penalty on Ohio State to close the gap to four with 10:36 remaining in the quarter.
Withers controlled the ensuing faceoff and, after a shot by Leclaire, Jasinski brought the ball back in and scored, coming from behind the goal. Withers again won the resulting faceoff, and Fannell scored his fourth goal of the day on a one-and-one matchup. The resulting six-goal deficit was Duke’s largest of the season, but the Buckeyes wouldn’t stop there, as Fannell found the back of the net once again to put Ohio State up seven. Then Buckley, assisted by senior midfielder Tyler Pfister, gave the team an eight-goal advantage on a goal with just 11 seconds left in the third.
Duke would score the first two goals of the final quarter, but the deficit proved to be too much to overcome as the Blue Devils had no answer for an attack that scored at their own pace and a stifling defense. Blubaugh added his second goal of the game with 11:57 remaining in the fourth to keep the Buckeyes’ lead at a comfortable seven. Ohio State allowed another Duke goal, which Pearson answered with his second of the day with 7:57 remaining in the game. Two more Blue Devil goals could not close the gap as Jasinski found the back of the net for his second score of the day with 1:12 remaining.
Fannell led the team with five goals and two assists on the day. Eight Buckeyes scored against Duke, with five players scoring more than two goals.
In goal, Carey made some truly spectacular saves on those rare occasions when the defense could not contain the Duke attack. Carey had 14 saves on the day on 25 shots on goal to Duke’s seven on 23 shots on goal. Overall shots were 45-31 in favor of Duke.
Withers had an excellent day on faceoffs as well, winning 17-of-28 against an outstanding specialist from Duke. Withers also led the Buckeyes with 11 of the team’s 29 groundballs.
Next up, the Buckeyes head to the NCAA semi-finals next weekend against the winner of Towson and two-seeded Syracuse.