FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — When Duke faces Yale for the 2018 NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse championship on Monday, it’ll be the blue bloods against the new bloods.
Duke won national championships in 2010, 2013 and 2014 and is in the Final Four for the 11th time. Yale has appeared only once before, losing in the semifinals in 1990.
“To be honest with you, getting to the Final Four, even getting to this point now, hasn’t hit me yet,” Yale coach Andy Shay said of his team’s maiden voyage to the championship game. “We’re trying to keep the moment where it is and just look at the Duke game as another game that is, admittedly, very big.”
For Duke coach John Dan ow ski, a former Hofstra coach, it’s just his latest big game. He took Duke to seven consecutive Final Fours during one stretch, though this is the Blue Devils’ first revisit since 2014. Still, Danowski was comfortable enough to joke about the setting at Sunday morning’s media conference.
“Being a lifelong Giants fan [his father, Ed, was the team’s quarterback in the 1930s], being around here makes you want to almost root for the Patriots,” Danowski said of being at Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots.
Monday’s game not only is a showcase of two of the nation’s most dynamic offenses but could decide the Tewaaraton Award, given annually to the sport’s top player. It is college lacrosse’s version of the Heisman Trophy, but unlike the football award, this one is not voted on until the postseason is over. So for attackmen Justin Guterding of Duke (a former Garden City star) and Ben Reeves of Yale, the only two finalists still standing, this could be one last chance to win over voters.
Both are coming off superb games in Saturday’s semifinals. Guterding had three goals and three assists in a 13-8 victory over Maryland. Reeves had five goals and four assists in a 20-11 triumph over Albany.
Both seniors thoroughly impressed the opposing coaches.
“He’s a great player. Skill set is terrific,” Maryland coach John Tillman said Saturday of Guterding, the NCAA’s all-time leader in goals with 210. “He’s got everything you need. He’s got a great motor. He can finish, he can feed. He’s got a good feel for the game. It’s almost like he’s a play ahead.”
Albany coach Scott Marr had similar praise for Reeves.
“He’s the total package. He’s a big kid [6-2, 205] and very athletic,” he said Saturday. “He sees the field, so when you go to him [defensively], he’s able to pass the ball. When you have a combination of both [feeder and finisher], it’s tough to stop. He’s just a great player and he showed why he’s on that Tewaaraton list.”
At Sunday’s media conference, Guterding and Reeves offered praise and showed respect for each other.
“Ben is an incredible player,” Guterding said. “He’s big, he’s strong and he’s fast. He can play with both hands. He’s something special.”
Said Reeves: “I haven’t watched a lot of Duke games and I haven’t put much thought into the matchup. But I understand he’s an incredible player and we have a ton of respect for him.”
Both thoroughbreds are surrounded by a stable of other stars creating story lines, as well as bloodlines.
NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse
Monday at Gillette Stadium
1 p.m. – No. 3 Yale (16-3) vs. No. 4 Duke (16-3), ESPN2
L.I. Links – Yale starters: John Daniggelis, M (St. James/Smithtown East); Jack Tigh (Garden City/Chaminade). Yale key reserves: Tyler Warner, M (Freeport/Baldwin HS); Lucas Cotler, A (Syosset); Will Renz, M (Rockville Centre/Chaminade). Duke starters: Justin Guterding, A (Garden City); Danny Fowler, G (Wantagh/Chaminade). Duke key reserves: Sean Cerrone, M (Huntington/Chaminade).