BALTIMORE — First, Duke goalie Kyle Turri learned he would enter Saturday’s NCAA semifinal against Denver. The chance to stretch out after three quarters on the sideline would have to wait until he was in the cage.
Such are the quirks of the top-seeded Blue Devils’ atypical goalie arrangement. Most teams have one designated goalie. A few consistently make changes at halftime.
And Duke (16-3), which will face sixth-seeded Notre Dame (12-5) at M&T Bank Stadium on Monday as it attempts to claim its third national title within five years, will make a change when the time feels right.
Sophomore Luke Aaron is the starter. Turri, a junior, has entered in relief in the past two victories.
“I guess it takes a little time to get used to, but we’ve kind of always seen ourselves as goalies-as-a-committee and any one of us could step in at any time,” Turri said.
The genesis of open-minded coach John Danowski’s philosophy actually is recent. Duke entered last year with Dan Wigrizer, the starter on its 2010 national title team, at goalie. But a concussion ended his career early in his senior season, suddenly opening the position earlier than anticipated.
Turri stepped in and went 14-1 as the starter, turning in a stellar final four as the Blue Devils claimed a national title. But Turri also had a pedestrian .498 save percentage that included a two-save outing in the NCAA quarterfinals against Notre Dame.
Turri began this year as the starter but was yanked early in Duke’s second game. A broken finger didn’t help matters for Turri, and Aaron (.505 save percentage) emerged as the starter in Turri’s stead.
But there were hints Danowski was willing to revisit the situation. During a March 9 loss at Loyola (Md.), Aaron and Turri alternated time. Then came the May 18 quarterfinal against Johns Hopkins, when Aaron was pulled with Duke leading 12-10 early in the third quarter. Turri entered, faced only two shots during the final 24 minutes and Duke rolled 19-11.
“As I came off the field, (Danowski) high-fived me and said, ‘Tough day,’ ” Aaron said. “It’s just one of those things where you move on from it.”
And so Aaron did, drawing the start Saturday. He made only three stops during more than 46 minutes before giving way to Turri, who entered with to a 12-10 lead and snagged four shots as the Blue Devils secured a 15-12 victory.
Danowski likens it to sending in a relief pitcher in baseball when a starter is roughed up. And he is correct in noting there would be no questions if an attackman or midfielder was removed for someone else.
“I have never done this,” Danowski said. “But it’s just one of those things that has evolved, through no planning or really foresight. We’re just very fortunate that we have two very capable goalies that we can win with.”
Danowski downplayed any concerns about the position Sunday. He said he might have found fault in just one of the 10 goals Aaron allowed Saturday – the last one he gave up, one that dribbled in after he nearly stopped it.
And he intends to start Aaron on the season’s final day, just as he has since late February.
“If it’s not broke at this point, don’t fix it,” Danowski said. “Let’s just continue to see what happens.”