Duke attackman Jordan Wolf learned his craft from the best: Matt Danowski

lkeeley@newsobserver.comApril 24, 2014 

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Duke's Jordan Wolf (31) in action against Georgetown in March 2013. Wolf leads Duke with 46 goals.

DUKE UNIVERSITY

— When Jordan Wolf was growing up in suburban Philadelphia, he watched Duke attackman Matt Danowski, who went on to become the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer.

Now a senior at Duke, Wolf has had quite the career of his own, becoming the first Blue Devil to earn four years’ worth of all-ACC honors. He has registered a point in every game since May 28, 2011 – a span of 55 contests – and is the NCAA’s active leader in career goals (166) and points (268). He has posted his most productive years as a junior and senior, thanks in large part to the tutelage of his former favorite player, now an assistant coach for the Blue Devils.

“He was a big reason I always wanted to come to Duke,” Wolf said of Danowski. “His style of play, and now that he coaches me, it’s like a dream come true, really.”

Wolf will return to suburban Philadelphia for his final ACC tournament, as second-ranked Duke, (12-2, 4-1 ACC), the No. 2 seed in the tournament, faces the No. 3 seed, Syracuse (9-3, 2-3 ACC), ranked No. 4 nationally. It’s a rematch of last year’s NCAA title game, played in the same park. Wolf led Duke with eight goals and four assists in his homecoming last season, as the Blue Devils took home their second national championship.

When Wolf, who is listed at 5-9, 170 pounds, arrived in Durham from Lower Merion, not one of the traditional high school lacrosse powerhouses, his field vision and going to his left, his non-dominant hand, needed work. But he had gifts that couldn’t be taught: speed and explosiveness.

“It’s that first step and that burst that’s just uncoverable, almost,” fellow senior attackman Josh Dionne said. “He’s built like a boulder, but it’s those first five yards that just make him uncoverable.”

When Danowski, who graduated in 2007 and finished playing in 2008, came back to work at Duke under his dad prior to the 2013 season, Wolf was a rising junior, ready to follow up on a season in which he led the Blue Devils with 65 points. Head coach John Danowski moved to work with the defenders so Matt, who still plays Major League Lacrosse with the Charlotte Hounds, could work with the attack.

Matt Danowski and Wolf worked together daily, shooting before practice and watching film afterward. They worked on seeing the whole field, learning to set up to score without the ball.

“I tried to take a little pressure off of him. I think he felt a lot of pressure being the No. 1 guy, always drawing the first pole, so I try to make lacrosse more of a fun thing than anything else and teach him the intricacies,” Danowski said. “He wants to make every play. He wants to score goals, get assists, pick up ground balls, ride; he wants to help the team in any way that he can, and he gets frustrated when he doesn’t hit every single shot. And that’s something we’ve tried to work on, not living and dying with every play.

“If it’s a good take, it’s a good take. If you don’t hit it – Tiger doesn’t make every putt, MJ didn’t make every free throw – it’s just the way it is. There’s another play coming along pretty quickly here. That’s the beauty of our game, you have a chance to make another play so quickly.”

Instant amnesia is what the Duke attackmen like to call their habit of moving on quickly to the next play. It’s easier said than done, as Matt Danowski readily admits it’s something he struggled with at Duke, too. But it definitely started to click for Wolf during last season’s championship weekend, and it has carried over to this season.

“When he freaks out or gets frustrated and comes back down to Earth and says, ‘Sorry, I probably shouldn’t have done that or said that,’ or ‘I shouldn’t have tried to break that guy’s arm while I was riding,’ that’s the stuff that I love,” Danowski said. “As a person, he has really grown this year as a leader and is enjoying himself. He’s not scared to be himself around the guys, which has been fun to watch.”

One thing that hasn’t changed: his ability to get to the net and score goals.

“Duke attackmen, it’s like your birthright to get points,” Danowski said of his players. “The thing that strikes me about Jordan, always, is that when a game is over, you’re like, ‘wow, I didn’t know Jordan had six goals, I didn’t realize he had four today.’ He just is so quietly consistent with his ability to make a play.”

Keeley: 919-829-4556; Twitter: @laurakeeley

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