In a game characterized by battles and heroes, fierce struggles and endless thrillers are likely in lacrosse. But when it is Duke facing Virginia, a brutal contest is not just a possibility, it is assumed.
The last pair of games between the teams exemplified all-out battles. Duke bested Virginia 10-9 on a John O'Donnell goal in overtime April 18, 1999, to give the Blue Devils the ACC regular season title. One week later, though, the Cavaliers won revenge with an 8-7 victory over the Blue Devils in the ACC Championship.
The No. 2 Cavaliers (7-1, 2-0 ACC) will continue the series against the No. 5 Blue Devils (8-2, 2-0) tomorrow in Klöckner Stadium at 7 p.m. The Cavs once again find themselves in the familiar position of fighting Duke for the regular season title and a top seed in the ACC Tournament.
Duke is "on a roll right now, and they are a very good team," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "It's a home game, a night game, which should be exciting. But they have a formidable group of athletes."
Coach Mike Presslar's Devils are hoping to extend a five-game winning streak, which has been driven by their explosive offense. In Sunday's 17-6 win over No. 17 Army, Duke scored the game's first 10 goals. At halftime, the score was a lopsided 12-2 in favor of the Devils.
Duke's offense is driven by the dynamic duo of seniors Jared Frood and T.J. Durnan. Frood, recently named National Player of the Week by Inside Lacrosse, is second in the ACC in assists with 2.1 per game. Durnan is second in scoring per game (4.2) and leads the conference in goals per game (2.9).
"I'm always excited to play them," senior defenseman Ryan Curtis said. "It's always a big game, always a tough game. They come in this year and everyone's talking about their big attackmen. That makes it exciting for us. It gives us a challenge, so it should be fun."
The Cavaliers, in the midst of a seven-game win streak, are looking to take over the No. 1 spot in the polls after top-ranked Syracuse fell to No. 9 Cornell, 13-12, Tuesday.
Carrying Virginia's offense is senior attackman Drew McKnight, who leads the ACC in both scoring (5.13) and assists (2.50). He was named ACC Player of the Week after an outstanding performance in last week's 13-7 win over No. 10 North Carolina. McKnight had a hand in six of the Cavs' first nine goals and collected four goals and two assists.
With so much talent in an anticipated thriller, it is hard to decide on who the heroes and victors will be. Virginia senior Jay Jalbert said Duke-Virginia matchups are always hard-fought struggles.
"There's definitely no love lost between us two when we play them," senior midfielder Jay Jalbert said. "They're tough, they have big players, they like to hit. It's definitely going to be a battle."