(Photo Courtesy of Duke Athletics)
Has Duke begun their run towards the NCAA Tournament? It sure looked like it on Thursday afternoon as the Blue Devils earned a crucial and potential season-saving win against the Virginia Cavaliers.
The Blue Devils came into the Thursday after a 16-15 loss against Notre Dame on Saturday where they had to fight back to make it a one-goal loss after another slow start, which has become characteristic of this Duke team in 2022. But that was far from case today in their 17-8 win over Virginia.
A combined eight saves were made by the two teams in the first 10 or so minutes of the game. But it was Duke’s Brennan O’Neill that was able to break the seal, scoring back to back goals within a minute of each other to pull the Blue Devils ahead 2-0. Duke would hold onto the lead for the rest of the contest.
O’Neill would go on to score two more goals and dish out two assists, ending the day with a game-high eights points. But it wasn’t just O’Neill playing hero ball. Duke saw eight other players find the back of the net as goal-scorers in addition to the stellar sophomore. Ten players in total walked off the field at Koskinen Stadium with as point-getters on Thursday.
Dyson Williams got a pair consecutively in the second quarter and added one more in the fourth for a hat trick. Freshman Reed Landin also had a hat trick while Joe Robertson had two goals and Owen Caputo had one goal and two assists. Cameron Badour, Connor Drake, Aidan Danenza, and even Tyler Carpenter each had a goal.
But above all, the MVP of the day for the Blue Devils was Mike Adler. The sixth-year senior ran off the field with a little under three minutes left in the game to an array of cheers, and well deserved cheers at that. Adler ended the day with a career-high 20 saves and had a 71% save percentage.
Where Adler was the most important was in the second and third quarters. Facing a combined 23 shots from the Cavaliers in those two periods, Adler turned away 13 to stifle any hope Virginia may have had of a comeback.
Despite Petey LaSalla going 14-for-23 at the dot for Virginia, the Blue Devils were the ones who were able to gain the momentum needed to win – and they did so off Adler’s saves. The Blue Devils were able to turn those saves into possessions, going 31-of-37 (83%) in the clearing game, and convert on those possessions.
The Blue Devils held a 2-1 lead at the end of the first and by half they had expanded that lead to 7-3. A 6-2 third quarter effectively helped put this one to bed as Duke led 13-5 heading into that final frame before putting the final touches on for the nine-point victory.
Matt Moore returned to the field for Virginia after leaving in the first half against Richmond two weeks ago with an injury. He led the way for the Cavaliers with two goals.
Duke (10-5, 2-2 ACC) is now off until May 1st when they face North Carolina on the road. They end the year at Notre Dame on May 7th. Wins against those two will almost ensure an NCAA Tournament bid for the Blue Devils.
Virginia (8-3, 4-1 ACC) will face Quinnipiac on Saturday.