BALTIMORE — Duke won its second straight NCAA men’s lacrosse championship, holding off Notre Dame’s comeback with a goal by Kyle Keenan with 2:39 left to clinch an 11-9 victory Monday.
The top-seeded Blue Devils (17-3) limited the Irish to one goal over the first 35 minutes, built a six-goal lead in the third quarter and held on to capture their third national championship in the last five years.
It sure wasn’t easy. The sixth-seeded Irish (12-6) closed to 9-8 with 5 minutes left and had the ball with a chance to tie. But after Duke goalie Luke Aaron stopped a shot by Jim Marlatt, Keenan scored on the other end for a two-goal cushion.
Sergio Perkovic’s fifth goal of the game made it 10-9 with 49.6 seconds remaining. Duke won the ensuing draw, however, and Jordan Wolf scored with 23.6 seconds to go to clinch it.
Wolf finished with two goals and four assists, and the Blue Devils got goals from seven different players.
Duke earned its first title in 2010 with a one-goal win over Notre Dame. This one, an all-Atlantic Coast Conference matchup, looked to be a lopsided rout before the Irish rallied.
Notre Dame tied a record for fewest first-half goals in the championship game last set by Cornell in 1988. The Irish, who came in averaging 12 goals and 37 shots per game, took only 18 shots.
Duke’s swarming defense had a lot to do with that.
Notre Dame has played in 19 NCAA tournaments and reached the Final Four on four occasions but still has not won the championship.
Duke, on the other hand, has the makings of a dynasty. The Blue Devils have played in each of the last eight Final Fours and reached the title game four times in that span under coach John Danowski.
Up 5-1 at halftime, Duke got a goal from Keenan with 17 seconds gone in the third quarter. After Perkovic answered for the Irish, the Blue Devils scored twice within a minute for an 8-2 lead.
That’s when Notre Dame launched its comeback.
Perkovic and Ben Pridemore scored to make it 8-4 after three quarters, and two more goals made it 8-6 with 11 minutes to go. But the Irish never could pull even.
Notre Dame goalie Conor Kelly stopped four shots in the first quarter, but Duke’s Christian Walsh scored with 8:13 left in the period and teammate Deemer Class added another with eight seconds to go.
It was the third time this season the Irish were held scoreless in the first period. In those games, they rallied to beat Ohio State and Maryland.
There would not be a repeat performance in this one.
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