Behind Fowler, Duke tops Syracuse for national title

Behind Fowler, Duke tops Syracuse for national title

May 27, 2013, 6:30 pm
Share This Post

As the horn sounded, the flow of blue equipment quickly rained down from the sky.

The Duke Blue Devils reigned victorious as ensuing groups of Duke players piled onto Lincoln Financial Field. Somewhere in the piles laid a bulky, long-haired 6-foot-0 midfielder.

A midfielder who gave the Duke men's lacrosse team the chance to defeat Syracuse on Monday, 16-10, as he won 70 percent of the game’s faceoffs.

A midfielder who wasn’t even recruited by Duke head coach John Danowksi, and instead enrolled in Duke on his own.

A midfielder who’s named Brendan Fowler.

One year ago, the result wasn’t the same for Duke and Fowler.

Last year on the same weekend, Duke fell to Maryland in the semifinal game. What made it worse was that Fowler suffered a broken collarbone in the loss.

As Danowski said, Fowler didn’t have his traditional summer. Instead, the junior rehabbed while foregoing weight-lifting and doing anything to put extra strain on his injury. By the time October came around, Fowler didn’t rejoin his lacrosse team as most players would. Instead, he rejoined his football team. Yes, Fowler is a dual-athlete, playing linebacker in the fall for Duke football.

“He's not even with us in the fall, and maybe there's something to that, that we don't screw him up,” Danowski said laughing.

Fowler is a rare breed in today’s college athletics, which requires almost every athlete to invest in one sport all year long, but it’s that athletic ability that allowed Fowler to dominate the faceoff X at the Linc.

“I think football and wrestling definitely helped me facing off, obviously very physical,” Fowler said. “I think wrestling a lot equates to the balance you have to have in wrestling, kind of helps with facing off, moving around there, balance.”

With that experience, Fowler, at one time in the game, had 13 straight faceoff wins. But not everything came easy for Duke and Fowler on Monday.

After falling in an early 5-0 deficit after the first quarter, the chances looked bleak for the Blue Devils to prevail in Monday’s championship game.

As Danowski said afterward, “Nobody scripts being down 4‑0 or 5‑0, and inside I think we were all freaking out.”

Syracuse capitalized on Fowler’s early miscues in the faceoff X. He committed two faceoff violations in the first half, something that Fowler said stuck with him a little bit.

But the nation’s third best player in faceoffs added that he allowed himself to cool down and focus on what has been working for him all season long in the X.

Once he did, Syracuse couldn’t find an answer.

“He has more than one technique, although we saw the one where he kind of pinch-clamped it and [got] the ball in the back of his stick, allowing him to pick it up,” Syracuse coach John Desko said of Fowler. “But then he adjusted pretty well to what we did.”

Behind Fowler, Duke dominated the second and third quarters.

Fowler won 15 out of 16 faceoffs, including all seven in the third quarter. In that span, Duke scored 10 times, which Danowski and Desko both credited to the work of Fowler.

Fowler, on the other hand, praised his wingers for attacking and executing on the chances they were given.

Together, Duke shut down Syracuse’s offense for over a 22-minute stretch. By the time Syracuse got possession and scored again, the Orange were down 13-5 with 8:11 left in the fourth quarter.

But when did it all set in for the Blue Devils that they were about to win their second national championship?

“Probably when the buzzer went and we played 60 minutes, right?” Duke attackman Josh Dionne said laughing along with Fowler and Danowski, who put his arm around Dionne.

It was a Kodak moment for the trio, symbolizing that it doesn’t take just one player or coach to reach this stage.

“There’s a necessary team aspect that it has to be team-oriented if you want to play on this weekend, and everything that we do from day one is team-oriented,” Danowski said.

Now, Duke will celebrate as a team, only this time as national champions.

More Team Talk