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Duke lacrosse beats Virginia in tournament final

4/29/2007

DURHAM, N.C. -- Matt Danowski and his fellow seniors had
helped Duke win 40 games in their careers and reach the NCAA
championship game in 2005.

Now, they can add another impressive -- and more significant --
accomplishment to their resumes.

Danowski and Zack Greer each scored three goals Sunday and the
Duke lacrosse program continued its triumphant return by beating
Virginia 12-9 in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament
championship.

Danowski was the tournament's most valuable player for the
top-seeded Blue Devils (13-2), who won their fourth title and first
since 2002.

It's the latest on-field highlight for the Blue Devils in the
road back from a rape scandal that led to charges against three
former teammates -- who were ultimately exonerated -- and the
cancellation of much of last season. Duke has won eight straight
games heading into next weekend's regular-season finale against Air
Force, followed by a trip to the NCAA tournament in hopes of
winning the title that eluded the Blue Devils in '05.

"For us as seniors, we talked about leaving a legacy here,"
said Danowski, honored as the ACC player of the year earlier this
week. "It's another testament to the character of the guys on this
team and the way we've stuck [together] throughout this whole
thing, kept our noses clean and just kept going and stayed with it.

"Today's one of those payoffs. But you can't fall back on that.
It's not the end-all, be-all for us."

Included in the current win streak is a pair of victories
against the Cavaliers (12-3), the defending ACC and national
champions.

In the first meeting, the Blue Devils didn't lead until Brad
Ross' around-the-world shot in overtime for a 7-6 win that clinched
the tournament's top seed. The victory also capped an emotionally
exhausting month for the Blue Devils in which the state attorney
general dropped all remaining sexual offense and kidnapping charges
against former players Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty and David
Evans.

The first meeting served almost as a measuring stick for the
Blue Devils, proving that their program had not taken a significant
slide during the hiatus. The second only reinforced that point --
though this time with a ACC championship trophy to back it up.

Virginia coach Dom Starsia called Duke "maybe the best lacrosse
team in the country."

"It seemed like we paid for every little mistake we made," he
said.

Trailing 4-3 at halftime, the Blue Devils took control with a
dominating third period. Duke scored seven goals, its
second-highest total for one period all season, with Greer and Mike
Catalino each scoring twice in the period.

"At halftime, although we were down by a goal, we were all
pretty calm," Duke coach John Danowski said. "We just said, 'It's
going to happen. Keep playing.'"

His team responded with a five-goal burst, ending with a putaway
from Matt Danowski, to start the second half and force the
Cavaliers to start playing catch-up. It was a tough task against
goalkeeper Dan Loftus, who had some point-blank stops among his 14
saves.

Much of the Blue Devils' success also centered on Danowski, who
scored a pair of impressive unassisted goals in the first period to
keep Duke close after an early 2-0 deficit.

"Teams have to key in on him or he's going to explode in
games," said Greer, who also had three assists. "He draws so much
attention that it opens it up for everyone else. And as long as
people are putting the ball in the net, that's a huge threat to
have everyone firing on all cylinders."

That was evident when Virginia had closed the gap to 10-8 early
in the fourth on Ben Rubeor's score. After Danowski drew multiple
defenders before getting off a shot, a by-himself Greer managed to
grab the rebound and bury it with 4:24 left. Max Quinzani added a
goal about a minute later to seal the victory.

Rubeor and Garrett Billings each scored three goals to lead the
Cavaliers.