Men’s lacrosse will welcome #7 Duke on Saturday afternoon
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Saturday will mark the most important day of the season for the JU men’s lacrosse team. And that’s not even counting the result from hosting the defending national champion and currently seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils. JU (5-8, 3-3) will face the national power with a 1 p.m. contest at D.B. Milne Field in the regular season finale.

Regardless of JU’s outcome against Duke (11-5), the Dolphins will have to wait until the night to see if it qualifies for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Tournament. If Canisius can beat Manhattan on the road, JU and Canisius would both have 3-3 league records with the Dolphins holding the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Dolphins do not hold the tiebreaker over Jaspers, which takes a 2-3 record into the weekend. Only four teams out of the seven-team MAAC qualify for the tournament.

“We’re just going try and worry about what we can control,” freshman goalie Peter DeLuca said. “We’ll be watching that game, but we can only impact what we’re trying to do.”

The game marks the second all-time meeting between JU and Duke. The Dolphins lost, 16-7, to the eventual national champion Blue Devils in Durham, N.C. last season.

“It’s a big game because you can make a statement to the rest of the teams and your league,” said DeLuca, who has started every game in posting a .504 save percentage.

Three seniors will be playing their final home game for the Dolphins. Bobby Stockton, Christian McLean and Jeff Camarra will be honored during Senior Day at D.B. Milne Field. Stockton enters tied with TJ Kenary for the team lead in goals with 18 while Camarra and McLean have played as reserves this season. Duke is coming off a hard-fought 11-9 loss to Maryland in the finals of the ACC Championship. The Blue Devils were ranked sixth at the time before falling to the seventh-ranked Terps.

But Duke continued to show the talent that led the team to a national title in 2010, as senior Zach Howell, junior CJ Costabile and sophomores David Lawson and Dan Wigrizer all made the ACC All-Tournament team. The loss was the first at home for the Blue Devils since March 20, 2010, stopping a 17-game home win streak. Duke has still won three of the last five ACC championships.

Despite playing in just its second season, the Dolphins will be playing a nationally ranked opponent for the eighth time in program history. JU is 1-6, but the lone victory in the group marked the first-ever win in Dolphins history when head coach Matt Kerwick’s team knocked off No. 18 Denver at home in triple overtime last year. JU is 0-2 against ranked opponents this year, including a close 15-12 loss to then-No. 15 Georgetown in the season opener at EverBank Field in the Sunshine Classic.

The Dolphins continue to sit in the upper echelon of national statistical rankings. JU is averaging 10.77 goals per game, placing it 16th nationally for average scoring offense in Division I. Head coach Matt Kerwick’s team has also been aggressive on the other side of the ball, causing 127 turnovers (9.77 per game) that ranks seventh behind teams such as Georgetown, Villanova and Penn.

JU also continues to rocket up the national leaderboard in ground balls, moving past VMI and No. 11 Virginia for the highest per-game average in the country at 40.23. The Dolphins have 523 ground balls through 13 games, trailing Duke by 49 for the most total. The Blue Devils have played three more games than the Dolphins.

The JU-Duke game will feature a pregame ceremony for the team’s three seniors as well as honorary team captains from the Wounded Warrior Project. Fans who cannot make it out to Milne field can follow the action through ASun.TV.

- By Brian Bohl