For the second year in a row, the No. 2 University of Denver Pioneers lacrosse team traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to face the No. 3 Duke University Blue Devils in the annual Cobb County Classic. Though the score was different this time, the result was the same as the Pioneers topped the Blue Devils, 14-12.
The game started slowly as both teams played stifling defense for the first few possessions. It wasn’t until after Denver’s second stop of the game that the scoreboard changed. Denver’s Jack Bobzien was credited with the opening goal of the game.
Two goals later with the score 3-0, DU seemed to be rolling despite the early struggles for Denver star FOGO, Trevor Baptiste. He started the game 1-for-5 in the faceoff S. If it weren’t for DU’s great defense, the early score could have easily been flipped.
Near the end of the first quarter, after a Blue Devils timeout, Duke grabbed the momentum with a goal from Myles Jones to cut Denver’s lead to 3-1. While DU had the lead, there was a sense that Duke was about to make this game interesting. DU wasn’t winning faceoffs and Duke was starting to settle in.
Because DU had trouble holding onto the ball in Duke’s half of the field, the Pioneers couldn’t take advantage of Baptiste’s improvement at the X. As a result, Duke scored the first two goals of the second quarter to tie the game at 3.
After a long Duke possession, Denver finally got a key defensive stop thanks to some great saves by goalie Alex Ready. On Denver’s ensuing possession, they scored to take a 4-3 lead.
By the end of the half, both teams had scored again to enter the locker room with the score 5-4 in favor of the Pioneers. Coming into this matchup, the prevailing thought was that this would be a high scoring, active game between two of the best teams in the country. At halftime, that narrative had been crushed to pieces as both teams’ defenses and goalies had the game under control.
The second half started with a quick Duke strike to tie the game back up at 5. That tie didn’t last long as Denver’s Zach Miller put on a man-to-man clinic and beat Duke’s goalie to put the Pioneers back up by 1 at 6-5.
After Baptiste lost the ensuing faceoff, Duke scored to tie the game again. This time Duke’s goal came on a good transition play and the shot just beat Ready.
For the last five minutes of the third quarter, the game went back and forth between both teams until DU held a 9-7 lead going into the final quarter.
The fourth quarter was marked by a quick DU 3 goal run followed by a Duke 3 goal run. In the final ten minutes, DU answered Duke’s run with two more goals, which proved to be the difference in the game.
The story of the DU-Duke game was, without a doubt, the stellar play of freshman goalie Alex Ready. Time and again throughout the game, he kept DU ahead or kept the game tied with incredible saves.
The fourth quarter just put an exclamation point on his game as he made two highlight reel saves in a row on good, high-quality Duke scoring chances. One he made with his stick on a bomb of a shot and the other was with his leg on a one-on-one, man up play down low to his right. Those two saves kept DU ahead and ended up giving DU the support they needed to clinch the victory.
DU comes home next weekend to play Sacred Heart and Dartmouth in the Faceoff Classic at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.