PHILADELPHIA — Faceoff specialist Brendan Fowler was perhaps the only constant in a forgettable first month of Dukes lacrosse season.
While the rest of the Blue Devils eventually came along, Fowler remained strong until the years final game.
Fowler won 20 of 28 faceoffs Monday and was named the NCAA tournaments most outstanding player, helping seventh-seeded Duke erase an early five-goal deficit and surge past top-seeded Syracuse 16-10 before 28,224 at Lincoln Financial Field.
Jordan Wolf scored four goals for the Blue Devils (16-5), who lost just once in their final 15 en route to their second national title in four years.
This was different than Dukes first title, which capped a period of four years spent under scrutiny after the 2006 season was halted in the wake of rape accusations later proven false. This time, it was all about lacrosse and coach John Danowskis methods of maintaining the Blue Devils presence on the national stage when so many other programs rise and fall.
I think it validates maybe what we do and who our kids are and the quality of our program, Danowski said.
Fowlers presence helped make it happen.
The junior, who plays linebacker for the Blue Devils football team and wasnt recruited to Duke for lacrosse, obliterated the NCAA records for faceoffs won (339) and taken (526) in a season and figured to be an overwhelming asset against the Orange (16-4). Yet Syracuse snagged two of five faceoffs in the first quarter en route to a 5-0 lead.
Early on I violated a few times and kind of let it get to my head a little bit, Fowler said. Once I cooled down and stuck to what I do every day, I got into a groove there and just felt pretty good going out there every time.
Yet Duke still faced a deficit. All year, Danowski wondered if the day would come when Fowler wouldnt dominate. The Blue Devils tried to have a plan in case it happened, but they never needed it.
It was also unnecessary Monday. Danowski acknowledged inside, I think we were all freaking out, but any anxiety vanished as Fowler won 13 consecutive faceoffs and the Blue Devils gradually reeled in the Orange.
Syracuses lead shrank to 6-5 at halftime. Duke took its first lead at 8-7 with 2:01 left in the third quarter. Less than seven minutes later, the Blue Devils were up 13-7.
You think Maybe this is the day were just going to get whipped. And why wouldnt you? Danowski said. But Brendan, once again, was that steadying, calming influence that allowed us to get to one and then we get to two.
The Orange threw six faceoff men at Fowler, with only defenseman Brian Megill managing any success against the first player to earn most outstanding player honors without scoring a goal or making a save in the championship game.
Fowlers effectiveness limited Syracuse to 14 shots on goal in the final three quarters; Duke scored 16 goals during that stretch.
I told John after the game to buy his faceoff guy a big steak, because he deserves it, Syracuse coach John Desko said.
The Blue Devils tied Virginias 2011 squad as the lowest-seeded team to win the Division 1 lacrosse tournament, in the process permitting a senior class that helped snag the programs first national title in 2010 go out as they came in: As champions.
It sounds pretty good right now and Ill take it, midfielder Jake Tripucka said. Going out a winner in anything is awesome.