Postscript from Notre Dame vs. Duke
Duke’s first national championship may have been historic in that it just might have lifted the burden of guilt weighing down on the program.
Even though charges of rape filed against three Blue Devils players in 2006 were dropped and the team was permitted to resume playing after that season had been canceled, the program almost seemed to wear a scarlet letter for that transgression.
When Duke, as the No. 1 seed, had advanced to the 2008 NCAA Tournament semifinals, I had written an article on the growing sentiment among lacrosse fans against the Blue Devils. The granting of fifth years of eligibility only served to inflame their opponents even more.
But minutes after the team’s 6-5 overtime victory over Notre Dame on Monday, it seemed that the statute of limitations for rehashing 2006 and fifth years had run out.
"I hope so," coach John Danowski said when asked if the media should drop that matter. "I will."
Monday’s win was shared by former players Matt Danowski, Zack Greer and Tony McDevitt, among others – all of whom shed tears over the program’s watershed moment.
"That meant so much to them, and for me, same thing," Danowski said. "It’s been a very emotional time and a very cool time. This is what we do and this is why we do what we do. There was so much emotion those first two years. People have no idea. These are young men trying to act like everything was OK, but they were hurting. And for them to go up on that field today and feel good – even when you’re not here and you leave a place, sometimes you don’t want that team to do well because you think, ‘They can’t do it without me.’ There’s not a bone in those guys’ bodies that feels that way."
*CJ Costabile’s game-winning goal five seconds into overtime against Notre Dame capped a roller coaster of a journey for the sophomore long-stick midfielder, who injured his ankle in a sledding incident in December and sat out a significant portion of the preseason. Costabile played in all 19 games this season, finishing with three goals and five assists, 63 groundballs and a face-off percentage of 54.1 (73-of-135). But Danowski said he didn’t fully re-gain his form of 2009 until April. "We don’t talk about CJ’s ability to ride a sleigh in the snow in December," Danowski quipped. "That’s a topic that we don’t talk about. He hurt his ankle, and he missed a good portion of the preseason. He probably came back too soon. He did play in that [season-opening] Bucknell game and probably came back just way before he should have."
*If the Blue Devils had lost in the championship game, that would have been the third loss in three attempts. And if that were the case, Danowski emphasized to the players that there was more to life than just lacrosse. "Winning – I’m not going to kid you – this is awesome," he said. "I told the guys last night, "Listen, this is not going to define your life. Hopefully, you guys one day are going to meet the right woman, you’re going to get married, you’re going to have children. Those will be the best days of your life.’ But this is pretty close."
*The other part of the equation of Costabile’s heroics involved the Fighting Irish’s strategy. Senior Trever Sipperly had won 8-of-15 face-offs, but coach Kevin Corrigan blamed himself for not protecting Sipperly in the event that Costabile cleanly won the opening face-off of overtime. "I’m mad at myself for not putting our wings further down and kind of playing a little more defensively there," Corrigan said. "Trever Sipperly had done a really god job all day and had really controlled the ball. So we weren’t think that he was going to give up a break because he had been in control of the ball for the better part of the day. But that said, in that situation, it might have been smarter to make sure because you know Costabile, if he has a chance, is going to attack the cage like that. It might have been smarter to put our wings down and tell Trever, ‘If you win it, just bring it to yourself and that way, we’re protected.’"
*Notre Dame (10-7) took 31 shots, but landed only 10 on net. Duke freshman goalkeeper Dan Wigrizer made only five saves, but the Fighting Irish failed to test him. "That was our fault," said junior midfielder Zach Brenneman, who scored three goals. "We just didn’t shoot well." Added Corrigan: "We got enough opportunities to score more than five goals. We just shot the ball horribly today. You’ve got a guy who makes [five] saves, and you don’t put more than 10 shots on him. That’s on us. We just didn’t put the ball on the cage."
*Notre Dame’s loss didn’t diminish the performance of junior defenseman Kevin Ridgway, who limited Blue Devils fifth-year senior attackman Ned Crotty to a lone assist and Cornell sophomore attackman Rob Pannell to two assists on championship weekend. Perhaps that’s why Corrigan was a bit vocal about Ridgway earning only honorable mention All-American status. "Kevin Ridgway is probably one of the most underrated defensemen in the country," Corrigan said. "He is not flashy and not good with the ball. It seems like guys get first-team All-American [honors] for looking good carrying the ball. I don’t know where that started, but somehow defensemen that carry the ball nicely now get extra credit and become All Americans. I thought the job of the defensemen is to stop people from scoring. Guys like Kevin don’t get enough credit when they do that and they do it very well."