DURHAM, N.C. — Loyola may have awakened a sleeping giant in lacrosse Friday night.
Unranked Duke exploded for five fourth-quarter goals and held on to beat No. 4 Loyola, 9-8, at Koskinen Stadium.
Duke (3-4) broke the game's final tie with two goals in a 55-second burst from Josh Offit and Christian Walsh to go up 8-6 with 8:45 remaining. Although Loyola (4-2) twice cut the deficit to one, on goals by Pat Laconi and Justin Ward, the latter coming with 1:13 left, the Greyhounds couldn't get the equalizer.
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"We talked about the history with Duke," Loyola coach Charley Toomey said. "Their record does not reflect how good that team is. … We haven't won down here since 2001. Duke has been to six [straight] Final Fours."
So far this season, Duke hadn't looked like a Final Four team. Despite a preseason top-10 ranking, the Blue Devils dropped out of the polls while struggling to a 2-4 record, their worst start since 1992. They were also coming off an embarrassing 16-7 loss here to Maryland, which had dealt Loyola its first loss, 12-10.
"We know about losing to Maryland," Toomey said.
However, since Saturday's loss to the Terps, the Blue Devils looked energized. They jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first four minutes Friday, prompting Toomey to take a timeout to regain control.
The Greyhounds did, rallying for four straight goals and a 4-3 halftime lead, but Toomey wasn't comfortable.
"I don't think we were ever in control," he said. "To Duke's credit, they chased us around on the defensive end and did a good job taking advantage on the offensive end. We didn't see anything we haven't seen before. They just did a better job executing."
Duke coach John Danowski made a few changes, giving freshman attackman Chase Matheis more playing time and starting sophomore Kyle Turri in goal for injured senior Dan Wigrizer, who was in sweats with a reported "upper body injury."
Matheis was one of four Blue Devils with two goals, joining Offit, Josh Dionne, and Jordan Wolf, and Turri made nine saves in his first start.
"Kyle stepped in, and he has stepped in for us before," Danowski said. "We were delighted with his performance, for sure."
Jack Runkel finished with six saves for Loyola as Duke outshot the Greyhounds 33-27.
Senior midfielder Phil Hobson put Loyola on top 5-4 with 7:28 left in the third quarter when he fought off two checks and got off a shot while spinning toward the goal. It stayed that into the fourth quarter, when Duke took the upper hand.
Two quick strikes by Matheis and Offit 2:31 into the fourth gave Duke its first lead since the early stages of the game. Sean O'Sullivan equalized for Loyola on an extraman feed fom Justin Ward with 10:36 left. But Duke went up by two at 8-6 with 8:45 remaining on goals by Offit and Christian Walsh 55 seconds apart.
Laconi narrowed the margin with 5:03 left to one with a fast-break goal, which he converted after the Greyhounds recovered a blocked shot in their defensive end.
Wolf and Ward then traded goals, with Ward tallying his team-leading second of the night from point-blank range off Nikko Pontrello's feed from behind with 1:13 remaining.
That set up an important faceoff, and Danowski took a timeout first. Although Loyola enjoyed a 12-9 faceoff advantage on the night, Brendan Fowler cleanly won his sixth of nine fourth-quarter draws.
Loyola had one more opportunity after checking the ball loose at midfield with 33 seconds to play. But the Greyhounds never got off a shot, with Pontrello losing the ball when he was checked to the ground by Duke senior defenseman Bill Conners as the horn sounded.
Toomey had called a timeout to set up a last-ditch play, but nothing materialized.
"It ended up in Justin's hands," Toomey said, "but we couldn't get the shot topside."