Duke needed overtime but the Blue Devils return to lacrosse final four

Defenseman Cade Van Raaphorst couldn’t help but to grin as Duke’s NCAA quarterfinal against Notre Dame unfolded Saturday.

Just imagine how happy the senior is now after the Blue Devils edged Notre Dame 14-13 in overtime before 8,017 at Shuart Stadium.

Van Raaphorst collected a key ground ball at the start of the extra session and Joe Robertson scored the game-winner with 2:33 left in overtime as second-seeded Duke advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive year with a rollicking victory over its ACC rival.

“This was one of the most fun games I think I’ve ever played in,” Van Raaphorst said. “Obviously, when they go on runs, you want to stop them, but I couldn’t keep a smile off my face the whole time.”

Robertson and CJ Carpenter both scored three goals and Nakeie Montgomery added a goal and four assists for the Blue Devils (13-4), who will meet third-seeded Virginia in Saturday’s NCAA semifinals in Philadelphia. The Cavaliers (15-3) defeated Maryland 13-12 in overtime in the afternoon’s first game.

Duke could never shake the seventh-seeded Irish (9-7) in the teams’ third meeting of the season. The Blue Devils rolled to a 14-8 victory in the regular season but dropped a 12-10 decision in last month’s ACC tournament.

It seemed Duke might cruise this time around when it scored the day’s first four goals, only for Notre Dame to surge back and tie it. So it would go for much of the day, Duke making a push and the Irish responding in kind.

The only thing to slow the back-and-forth was the day’s most somber moment. Freshman long pole Wilson Stephenson suffered a leg injury with 11:56 to play, and goalie Turner Uppgren immediately called for medical attention and a stretcher.

“Coach [John Danowski] brought us real quick and said ‘Let’s turn this around and let’s do it for Willy,’” Carpenter said. “Coach Matt [Danowski] said ‘Willy would want us playing for him. He doesn’t want us thinking about him, he wants us winning this game.’”

The Irish took their first lead of the day on Bryan Costabile’s goal with seven minutes to go, the cap to a four-goal spurt to make it 12-11. The Blue Devils nosed ahead on scores from Jake Seau and Robertson, only for the Irish to tie it again at 13 on Brian Willetts’ extra-man goal with 1:24 to go.

Notre Dame had the last chance in regulation, but Ryder Garnsey (four goals, two assists) lost possession after drawing a double team coming out of a timeout in the final seconds to send the game to overtime.

Van Raaphorst secured the faceoff and Duke called timeout. The Blue Devils got a couple looks late in the shot clock, and Carpenter quickly passed to Robertson off a restart with six seconds left in the possession.

“I realized they put the short stick on me and the left side of the field was pretty clear, so I called for it,” Robertson said. “I ran as hard as I could to my left, shot the ball with my left hand, something we pride ourselves on here is that we can do it with both hands.”

The fundamentally sound Blue Devils now find themselves in a familiar spot. They’ve advanced to the semifinals 10 times in John Danowski’s 13 seasons, winning three national titles along the way. Danowski isn’t fond of making comparisons between teams, but had no problems marveling at Duke’s first overtime victory in the NCAA tournament since a first-round defeat of Loyola in 2013.

“This game,” Danowski said. “Is what it was supposed to be.”