INDIANAPOLIS — Duke began its lacrosse season with what have become almost characteristic struggles.
The Blue Devils will finish the spring in the same way they usually do as well with a trip to the final four.
Midfielder David Lawson scored five goals, including the game-winner, as seventh-seeded Duke edged second-seeded Notre Dame 12-11 before 7,749 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
The Blue Devils (14-5), who have advanced to the semifinals in all seven seasons under coach John Danowski, will meet unseeded Cornell (14-3) in Philadelphia on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
We try not to get nervous about being the first team not to get to a final four under coach Danowski, Lawson said. We havent really talked about it, but were obviously very happy about it.
Lawson played a substantial role in Dukes latest postseason run, muscling his way into position to find openings against the typically stingy Fighting Irish (11-5) throughout the day.
The senior scored four of Dukes first seven goals, but it was his last shot that extended the Blue Devils season. Lawson fired a dart with 2 minutes, 16 seconds remaining past Fighting Irish goalie John Kemp, who had 13 saves, to give the Blue Devils their first lead since the middle of the third quarter.
I kept shooting and I took a lot of shots and it was falling for me today, so I just kept shooting, said Lawson, who established a career-high in goals.
They were all needed on a day when neither team managed to build more than a two-goal advantage.
Notre Dame built an 11-9 lead with 9:29 remaining, but Duke quickly got a goal from Christian Walsh to close within a goal. Goalie Kyle Turri stuffed Notre Dames Sean Rogers from close range with 3:30 left, and his outlet pass led to Josh Dionnes tying goal 12 seconds later.
After Lawsons go-ahead score, Notre Dame didnt put a shot on cage the rest of the way as Duke won a one-goal game for the second consecutive week. The Blue Devils upended Loyola (Md.) in overtime in the first round.
We certainly dont script these endings, either last week or this week, Danowski said.
Nor does Danowski plan on an almost annual season arc that begins with a few early stumbles before a late-spring surge. It just works out that way as Duke figures things out.
These Blue Devils lost four of their first six games including a 13-5 defeat at home against Notre Dame and had meetings with defending national champion Loyola and potent North Carolina looming over a five-day stretch.
Since then, Duke has won 12 of 13 to take its now place in the final four.
They never stopped giving us great effort, Danowski said. What we feared was we were going to lose them. Maybe if we kept losing they werent going to listen to the coaches. Thankfully, they listened just enough.