The second game of the Big City Classic, featuring Syracuse vs. Duke, was a definite departure from game one, in which Notre Dame and St. John’s slowed it down and played conservative lacrosse. Duke and Syracuse ran the field, pressed out with their defenses and created offensive opportunities where none seemed to exist. I can summarize the difference between the two games thusly:
- During the ND – SJU game, the kids I was watching with were asking about offensive sets and defensive strategy, and the other finer points of the game. There weren’t a ton of “oohs” and “aahs”.
- During the Cuse – Duke game, they only question I heard asked was, “DID YOU JUST SEE THAT?” Some of the goals and saves were that good. Tim Desko’s underhand tuck shot was only one of the many highlights.
It was a pleasure to watch both the Syracuse and Duke offenses at work out there. The ball movement, dodging and backside looks were all there for both teams. The aggression on ground balls and intensity on rides and clears set the tone nicely for transition work, and any truly great chances to get goals felt like a huge waste if they weren’t capitalized on.
Tommy Palasek really stood out for Syracuse, and it wasn’t until the end of the game that I realized just how many points he had picked up. Palasek was wreaking havoc out there all day, and he did a great job of carrying the ball and dealing with pressure, and was often involved when Duke’s defense was pulled out or caught napping.
Offensively, Duke showed off some really hot shooting and Robert Rotanz led the way in that department. Rotanz was on point all day hitting tough shots, and doing so in a variety of ways. The Duke D pressed like they usually do, but not to the point of consistent over-extension, which has been a problem for the Blue Devils in the past. Mike Rock replaced Dan Wigrizer in net for about 2 minutes, and I’m still not sure why that happened, but it didn’t seem to make much of a difference as the goals just kept coming.
In the 4th quarter, a couple penalties, some consistent rain and wet conditions, and an 11-10 Duke lead made it seem like anything could happen. The field at MetLife Stadium is turf, and it was holding up fine, but players were starting to slip more and more, and we began seeing a lot more errant passes as the pockets started to bag out from the wetness.
Duke was up 12-10 with just under 3 minutes to play when they created a turnover and pushed the ball down field. They had a man wide open on the crease, but passed the look up to maintain possession. With 1:58 left in the game the stall warning was given and Duke called a timeout, looking to hold on and ice the game with a possession.
Syracuse doubled the ball immediately, created the turnover and pushed the ball down field but Duke was up to the task and created a turnover of their own. Cuse got the ball back off a failed clear with about 40 seconds left but couldn’t manage a shot on goal as Duke got another T/O and escaped with the 2-goal win. Duke 12, Syracuse 10.
HUGE win for Duke, and a lot of fun for the fans to watch!
All photos by Tommy Gilligan