DURHAM — There were times, Duke goalie Kyle Turri said, when he would be sitting in the stands watching the Blue Devils and imagining himself on the field. His older brother Justin was a two-time All-America midfielder at Duke, so a high school-aged Turri followed the program closely.
“I wanted to come here ever since he came,” Turri said of his older brother. “I wanted to follow in his footsteps.”
Since Turri, a sophomore, has taken over the starting role, Duke is 11-1 and will play Notre Dame (11-4) at 2:30 Sunday in Indianapolis with a berth in the NCAA lacrosse championship weekend on the line. Duke has appeared in six straight final fours.
The No. 7 Blue Devils (13-5) began the year with senior Dan Wigrizer, the starter for Duke’s 2010 national championship, in between the pipes. When concussions forced him to stop playing, Turri stepped into the role.
Turri’s first starting assignment this year came against defending national champion Loyola. He posted nine saves in Duke’s 9-8 win, the first of nine straight victories. Turri’s only setback, an 18-17 loss against North Carolina, came in the ACC tournament semifinals.
“He can do a whole bunch of things for you besides stop the ball,” coach John Danowski said of Turri. “He’s a terrific passer, very poised with the ball.”
Turri spent the summer playing for the United States’ under-19 team in Finland, winning a gold medal in the Federation of International Lacrosse world championship. The experience kept him fresh at a time when other guys were playing in small summer leagues. With that experience came confidence – and he would need that when he took over at Duke.
“Being the goalie, you’re the last line of defense,” Turri said. “And when you have juniors and seniors playing close defense ahead of you, it’s tough to tell them what to do. As the goalie, you’re kind of directing the defense, but I’ve definitely gotten more confident over the season directing them and helping them out.”
Turri will need to communicate effectively Sunday, as the Fighting Irish are known for playing a deliberate style and waiting for the perfect shot. That will result in longer possessions for the Blue Devils, requiring the defense to stay on the same page.
Wins against North Carolina in the regular season and last weekend’s 12-11 double overtime victory against Loyola have given Turri confidence in himself. He doesn’t have to imagine playing anymore.
Keeley 919-829-4556; Twitter @laurakeeley