CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—Duke University rookie CJ Costabile tallied three goals and went 10-of-17 in faceoffs to lead the sixth-ranked Blue Devils to their third consecutive ACC Men’s Lacrosse Championship this afternoon with a 15-13 win over rival North Carolina in Kenan Stadium. Costabile earned the tournament’s Most Valuable Player Award.
“I would have to say that the ball was just going my way,” Costabile said. “[Shane Walterhofer] is probably the best faceoff guy in the game right now when it comes down to it. I was really lucky to get some bounces going my way and my wings helping me out with the ground balls. I guess I just had a good day at the X more than anything.”
Representing Duke on the All-Tournament team were Ned Crotty, Mike Catalino, Zach Howell, Max Quinzani, Mike Manley and Steve Schoeffel. The victory marks the first time Duke has captured three consecutive ACC titles since the program began.
Catalino added three tallies for his second career hat trick, while Howell, Schoeffel and Quinzani had two scores. Howell and Schoefell both added assists and Crotty handed out three on the day to push his tournament points total to 11. Billy Bitter led North Carolina with five points (2g, 3a), while Sean Delaney had three goals.
“What a difficult tournament to win and to play in three days,” head coach John Danowski said. “We just think the world of [North] Carolina. We’ve played them now seven times in the past three years and every game is a battle and every game is 60 minutes up-and-down. We are humbled to win and very proud to be part of the AC Tournament and the ACC Championship game.”
With the win, Duke (12-3) pushes its win streak against the Tar Heels to 10 games, dating back to March 20, 2004. Today marked the first time since 1995 the two teams have met in the ACC title match. Duke emerged victorious then as well with a 14-6 win in Chapel Hill. No current member of the Blue Devils has lost to North Carolina during his career.
“It’s unbelievable [to get to this point this year],” Crotty said. “In past years we’ve always kind of been at that high point. This year we’ve been a work in progress and constantly getting better and better. So to look back at the year now and see where we were and to be at this point now, I would say that this championship is better than the two previous.”
Playing the opening 30 minutes at a blistering pace, the Blue Devils and Tar Heels went into the locker room tied 8-8. No team led by more than two in the first half as the two teams continued to trade goals. The longest stretch between scores in the opening quarters was the final 6:43 of the second quarter. A 7-2 run by the Blue Devils over a span of 14:35 in the third and fourth quarters proved to be the difference for Duke.
The Tar Heels opened the scoring 57 seconds into the game with an unassisted tally and made it 2-0 game 13 seconds later as Shane Walterhofer took advantage of an open lane off the faceoff and fired a shot home.
Winning the ensuing faceoff, Duke quickly went to work and made it a 2-1 game, getting the first of Costabile’s three goals. Crott provided the assist on the goal.
The remaining 13 minutes was back-and-forth action with no more than four minutes passing without a score. After Catalino pulled the Blue Devils back to within one with a goal, the two teams failed to score over the next 4:38.
Trailing 4-3 midway through the first quarter, Quinzani and Catalino went solo for unassisted scores to give Duke its first lead of the game, 5-4, with 3:12 remaining. UNC’s Ben Hunt tied the score with 1:42 left.
Costabile gave the Blue Devils the lead for the second time, just six seconds into the second frame, picking up the ground ball of the faceoff and racing right to goal. The rest of the quarter was nip and tuck with both teams trying to push the pace. Trading goals over the course of the next eight minutes, they headed into the locker room tied at eight apiece.
“[The pace] was a surprise, but it was so much fun,” Quinzani said. “I turned to Ned [Crotty] a couple times and said ‘They’re scoring, we’re scoring. This is how I remember playing in the heat of the battle last year.’ It was just fun. The ball was flinging. They were making good plays, we were making good plays. I love playing like that.”
The furious scoring pace slowed in the third quarter as it took over eight minutes for either team to find the back of the net. Duke turned out to be the first to get on the board when Howell fed Quinzani who put it away to give Duke the lead for what proved to be for good.
Quinzani’s goal sparked a three-goal run and a 7-2 stretch over the next 14:35 for the Blue Devils. Junior Will McKee scored with 1:51 left to push the lead to three goals for the first time on the day.
North Carolina’s Bitter got a man-down score in the final minute of the third stanza to make it 12-10 heading into the final session. Duke responded in grand fashion, scoring four of the next five goals to seemingly put the game away with a 15-10 lead with 6:53 left in the contest.
“We cleared the ball much better in the second half, which gave us more possessions and more opportunities to score,” Danowski said. “I thought that was a big part of the game. We were much better in the second half.”
The Tar Heels, however, refused to go away. Bitter and Delaney hooked up to make it 15-11 and Bitter provided another assist to Gavin Petracca to make it 15-12 with 2:39 to play.
The push from North Carolina (11-5) continued, as Chris Hunt made it a two-goal game for the first time since it was 12-10 early in the fourth quarter. The Blue Devil defense buckled down in the final 1:40 forcing the Tar Heels into turnovers and ran out the clock for the ACC title.
Duke held a slight 41-39 advantage in shots, while the Tar Heels won the ground ball battle 44-39. North Carolina edged Duke at the X, winning 16-of-31 restarts.
In goal, senior Robert Schroeder made seven saves. North Carolina’s Grant Zimmerman had 14 stops, including seven in the third quarter.
Duke (12-3) closes out its regular season on May 3 at St. John’s.
Photos: Mark Abbott
North Carolina vs. Duke