Defense Limits Duke’s Top-Ranked Offense in Setback

Defense Limits Duke’s Top-Ranked Offense in Setback

CLEVELAND, Ohio - Freshman goaltender Stephen Russo and the Viking defense limited the high-powered Duke offense as the Cleveland State University lacrosse team trailed by one at the half in a 9-3 loss to the third-ranked Blue Devils Sunday afternoon at a sold-out Krenzler Field.

Duke entered the weekend leading Division I in scoring offense (15.14 goals/game), points (23.00 per game) and shooting percentage (.414) while also ranking among the top 10 in assists per game (7.86). However, the Blue Devils were held well below all of those figures in Sunday's contest, thanks in large part to a season-best 17 saves from Russo, the most by an opposing goalie against Duke this season.

Duke's nine goals tied its season low while its two assists, 11 points and 23% shooting mark were season lows. In fact, the Vikings held the Blue Devils to their lowest shooting percentage in Duke's past 27 regular-season games. Russo's .654 save mark from Sunday's game was the best by an opposing team against Duke in the Blue Devils' last 36 games overall.

Russo now has double figures in saves and has stopped more than half of the shots on goal in four of the last five games. Starting defenseman Isaac Atencio, Skylar Jimenez and Brandon Ruditz also played key roles in shutting down Duke's attack.

Freshman Michael Wilson continued to lead the CSU offense by scoring twice on a pair of shots. He now has points in each of the first nine games of his collegiate career and has scored in eight of them.

Each team had a shot saved on its first possession and a turnover on its second possession. Sophomore Nick Wendel nearly gave the Vikings the opening goal but his shot rang off the post.

Duke then scored on each of its next three possessions to grab an early edge.

Russo made two saves on Duke's next possession, and the Blue Devils were then granted a man-up chance. However, freshman Jake Higgins forced a man-down turnover to help CSU kill off the penalty.

After a turnover by each team, Wilson received a pass from behind the cage in the final minute of the quarter. He then used a nifty spin move to create space for a shot that proved to be CSU's opening goal.

After each team turned the ball over on its first possession of the second quarter, the goalies combined for three saves on the next two possessions. The Vikings then had an extended possession and were finally able to convert when Gideon Brockenbrough's shot was saved, but Wilson grabbed the rebound out of midair and slotted it home.

Duke would answer with a man-up goal on its next possession. The rest of the first half featured six turnovers as the game became more unsettled for a time.

Russo made a save with just over 30 seconds to play in the half, and the Vikings were able to clear. Wendel then used a fine individual effort with a dodge and scored with just five seconds left in the half, cutting the margin to one.

Neither team scored on its opening three possession of the second half. The Vikings then had a potential game-tying shot blocked by the Duke defense. The Blue Devils were able to grab the ground ball and scored on the subsequent possession.

Duke scored on each of its next two possessions, the first of which came in transition, to extend its lead. The Blue Devils added an unassisted tally in the final minute of the frame and one more midway through the fourth to set the final margin.

The game was a marked contrast from Cleveland State's contest with Duke last season when the first-year Vikings allowed 22 goals to the Blue Devils. It was the first time the Vikings allowed a single-digit goal total to a nationally ranked foe.

Sophomore Danny Tesler won 10-of-16 faceoffs and grabbed seven ground balls while causing a turnover. Freshman Jake Higgins grabbed four ground balls and caused a turnover.

Wilson's fourth straight multi-point game gave him seven for the season. He now has five multi-goal outings, including four in the past six contests.

Wendel scored for the third straight outing and the sixth time in seven games.

Cleveland State had fewer penalty minutes than its opponent for the 16th time in 23 games.

The Vikings will close the month of March next Saturday, March 24, at Penn State, its third Big Ten opponent of the season.