The Blue Devils had an almost unfathomable comeback fall short in a 12-11 loss to Johns Hopkins in the NCAA championship game Monday, and afterward the locker room was eerily silent.
No team had ever experienced what Duke had endured. The Blue Devils fell 9-8 to Hopkins in the 2005 title game but missed a chance to return to the Final Four in 2006 after a woman hired to strip at a team party claimed she was attacked by three Duke players.
The allegations, which included rape and kidnapping charges, ultimately proved to be false. But the revelation came too late to save Duke's season or the job of coach Mike Pressler, who watched Monday's game among the championship-game record crowd of 48,443 while first-year coach John Danowski ran the team.
"Right now I think everyone in here is thinking, 'Wow, we just lost the national championship.' In a couple of weeks, maybe we'll say, 'Look what we accomplished,'" goaltender Dan Loftus said. "But we wanted a national championship. That's what we came here for."
It would have been a Hollywood story: Duke (17-3) completes its emotional comeback season by winning its first national title before a record crowd.
But Johns Hopkins wrote its own ending.
"We used it as motivation," Blue Jays midfielder Stephen Peyser said.
The Blue Jays (13-4) never trailed in winning their ninth national title. But they blew a six-goal halftime lead and found themselves locked in a tie at 11 after Duke's Max Quinzani scored with 4:37 remaining.
Hopkins attackman Kevin Huntley followed with his third goal of the game, with 3:25 to go, but the Blue Jays couldn't celebrate until Quinzani's final shot went wide of the goal as time expired.