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Manhasset's Duvnjak the shutdown defender

Manhasset High School defenseman #19 Bobby Duvnjak, right,

Manhasset High School defenseman #19 Bobby Duvnjak, right, pressures Chaminade #24 Ryan Lukacovic in the second period. (April 28, 2012) Credit: James Escher

Another game presents Manhasset defenseman Bobby Duvnjak another opportunity to exhibit masterful proficiency of his craft.

For all that Duvnjak does on a lacrosse field, the attention he gets comes from what he prevents others from doing -- scoring.

Rated the No. 1 player in the country by Inside Lacrosse, it can be an unenviable position for Duvnjak.

He is supposed to succeed.

Should someone be skillful enough or lucky enough to score against him, it is a feat to be featured on a highlight tape for all to see.

Yet the Harvard-bound Duvnjak relishes these no-win scenarios.

"I definitely look forward to those. I try to take those guys out of their game . . . I try to take pride in trying to shut them down, let them have zero goals and zero assists," Duvnjak said of facing top-ranked offensive players. "You just got to take it one game at a time because if you let that attackman embarrass you, then everybody's going to be talking about it. So you got to put those aside and just do your job and be the best player you can be no matter what.

"But it's not about me, it's about the team. That's what I care about."

Duvnjak is the defensive leader for Manhasset (8-3, 6-0 Conference III), which is averaging 6.8 goals against and vying for an undefeated league season and one of the top seeds in the Nassau Class B playoffs. The two-time All-American and two-time first-team All-Long Island selection, well on his way to three-peating each of those feats, credits his coaches and teammates with making him the shutdown defender he is today.

"It's the competition in practice that helps you out. You get beat in practice, then you work on it all practice and don't get beat again," he said. "It's the combination of working with your speed and learning to keep your stick top side, which is what we preach here."

Duvnjak positions himself between the goal and his man with a scholarly awareness of angles, as if mentally envisioning a protractor to generate an impenetrable defense. That he also wields a 6-foot long stick is almost an unfair advantage for the 6-foot, 200-pound Duvnjak.

"I think the most dominating thing is with his stick,'' Manhasset coach Bill Cherry said. "He has a knack for getting the stick in the hands, getting the stick under the elbow, getting it under the guy's arm as he's ready to shoot, a little tip of the stick as he's going to shoot. He has all the tricks. He has a whole bag of tricks and it never stops.

"He does things that you see college guys do, and he's been doing it for three years with us."

Duvnjak faced off with Darien's Case Matheis, the top-ranked attackman in the country, on April 19 in what might end up as the best matchup in boys lacrosse this season. Duvnjak held the Duke-bound Matheis to one goal in each of the previous two years. This time, Matheis notched three goals and four assists, although only one of the goals came against Duvnjak in Manhasset's 10-7 loss.

"Anybody else, any one of our guys played Case, he might have had eight, nine points," Cherry said. "How many times did he turn the corner and Bobby takes the shot away from him at the last minute? That's just his patience. A lot of guys would be going over the head, and he just waits and waits and waits and takes it away.

"It's huge in the fact that a lot of teams have one guy who's the go-to guy. They always have that one stallion, and he takes that guy away from their offense, and that's huge. It could be a seven-point guy in a game, and you take those seven points away from them, it's big."

Duvnjak will face another one of "those guys" Saturday against Garden City, ranked No. 1 nationally, in the Woodstick Classic. Adding to the already marquee matchup is that Duvnjak and defensive teammate Stefan Pate, who also will attend Harvard, will more than likely match up against Garden City's Devin Dwyer, Nassau's leader in points (68) and assists (46), who also is bound for Harvard.

"It's weird because me and Case are friends, me and Devin are pretty good friends, so it's a little awkward," Duvnjak said. "But it's all business back there . . . It's game time and it's all go on the field. We're friends off the field, but on the field, we're enemies. You've got to get after them."

With three regular-season games and a postseason left, Duvnjak can add to his already remarkable legacy at Manhasset. The question: From an individual standpoint, what more can he possibly do?

"I think right now, he's the best defenseman ever to play here, and that's saying a lot," Cherry said. "He's the best of the best, and I've been around since '74. I've seen a lot of them and they were all great, but he's No. 1."

So how does Cherry plan to replace Duvnjak next season?

"I don't know," he said. "Can we clone him?"

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