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ASU rides great defense to beat Minnesota-Duluth

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The Arizona State lacrosse team used a dominant second half effort to overcome a slow start and defeat the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs 7-3 on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulldogs took an early 1-0 lead, but the Sun Devils wasted little time in catching up as they scored two goals less than a minute apart from one another to take a 2-1 advantage.

After the Sun Devils tied the score at one, faceoff specialist Zack Handy controlled the faceoff and marched right down the field before firing off a shot that sailed past goalie Jared Klapperich to give Arizona State a one goal lead.

When Handy scored, the Bulldogs attempted to keep pace by sending a flurry of shots by way of Sun Devil goalie Preston Anderson. Though most of the shots were unsuccessful attempts from long distance, Logan Lindberg found the back of the net with a bullet that caught Anderson off guard.

With the score tied at 2-2, the teams traded goals for the third straight time. Sun Devil forward Justin Straker beat Klapperich to give his team a 3-2 lead, but the Bulldogs rallied and tied the game before the half.

As the No. 2 team in the country, the Sun Devils were in danger of falling to the 18th ranked Bulldogs if their playmakers didn’t step up.

Fortunately for coach Chris Malone’s squad, Arizona State wouldn’t be denied.

Bulldogs’ coach Sam Litman elected to start the second half with Andrew Blaeser in the net, but the switch didn’t pay off.

Despite Minnesota-Duluth’s conscious effort to blanket Justin Straker, the Sun Devil attackman slipped past the defense and deked out Blaeser with a beautiful pump-fake before scoring to give Arizona State a 4-3 lead midway through the third quarter.

Captain Payson Clark followed Straker’s goal with a well-timed run from behind the net before rocketing the ball past Blaeser to give Arizona State a two-goal advantage after three quarters.

“Straker has been superb all season and today was no different,” coach Chris Malone said.

In the fourth quarter, sophomore midfielder Kyle Denis opened the scoring for the Sun Devils by bringing the ball into the box himself and firing from across his body for a nifty goal.

Then, with 8:34 remaining, Straker added the fourth and final goal of the second half for the Sun Devils by escaping the close watch of the Bulldogs’ defense.

Even with a 7-3 score, the game was far from over after Straker’s goal. Minnesota-Duluth had a two-man advantage midway through the fourth quarter but failed to capitalize.

In the closing minutes, Bulldog captain Stan Drutowski and Logan Lindberg peppered the net, but Preston Anderson turned away every scoring chance.

The Sun Devils’ man-to-man scheme frustrated the Bulldog attackers and the defense thrived in one-on-one situations. Even though the offense struggled to find rhythm, the Arizona State attackers were thankful the defense stepped up.

“When our offense isn’t clicking, it’s good to know we have a solid defensive unit that will have our backs,” Payson Clark said.

For coach Chris Malone, the defensive effort was a major reason why the Sun Devils emerged victorious, but he voiced concerns about the play from his offense today.

“I thought the defense really came together today,” Malone said. “I thought the ball movement on offense was not there. We need to play more as a unit on offense to be an elite team in the MCLA.”

With the win, Arizona State improved to 4-0 on the season and will have a chance to build on the success on Friday night when they take on the Chapman Panthers in the Sun Devils’ first home game of the season.

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