A knee injury that will likely need surgery next month wasn’t about to deny Luke Duprey of Concord a chance of leading Duke University to its second straight NCAA men’s lacrosse title.
On Monday in Baltimore, playing on a right knee with two torn ligaments, Duprey, a defender, was all over the field battling and chasing forwards.
When the dust settled, Duprey and Duke celebrated an 11-9 national championship win against Notre Dame.
“My doctors and surgeons were basically telling me it was impossible to play on my injured knee,” said Duprey. “I met with my coaches and doctors and just kept pleading with them to give me a chance to prove I could play and be efficient. I told my (head) coach (John) Danowski this isn’t an ego trip. I know my body better than anyone.”
As a senior captain, Duprey insisted on playing because he didn’t want to end his career watching the tournament from the sidelines.
“This was it and believe me I had no regrets making the decision I made, even if it meant risking further injury to my knee,” said Duprey. “This is why I came here, to play. I’m a Duke man and as a Duke man, you learn quickly to help your team any way you can. My way of helping was to play in the tournament.”
Duprey made a difference in the late stages of Monday’s game when Notre Dame (12-6) cut an 8-2 deficit to 9-7. With two Irish players converging on him, Duprey ran half the field to secure a loose ball that denied Notre Dame a meaningful possession.
“We’re up by two goals with seven minutes left when a bad pass was made by a Notre Dame player,” said Duprey. “I ended up running shoulder-to-shoulder against two of their guys before I got pushed from behind and fell. The refs called it and we ended up with the possession. It was an important call because we ended up taking some time off the clock.”
Notre Dame eventually came within a point of tying the game twice at 9-8 and 10-9 before Duke scored an empty-net goal with 23 seconds left for the win. Duprey ended up with one ground ball in the win.
Duprey suffered his knee injury during an April 11 win at Virginia. He managed to return to practice two weeks later and his first game back was last Saturday in a win against Denver in the NCAA semifinals.
Another New Hampshire native, Josh Dionne of Merrimack, suffered a knee injury in the NCAA quarterfinals and was sidelined for the rest of the tournament. Dionne, a senior, took four shots and scored four times in a 19-11 victory over John Hopkins in Durham, N.C.
In 17 games this season, Dionne scored 49 goals and added seven assists. He was second on the team in goals scored. His 56 points were fourth-highest on the team.
“Josh has been a starting attacker for us for three years and turned into a proficient scorer,” said Duprey. “When he went down against John Hopkins it was tough to watch. But he started coaching from the sidelines in the last two games, helping others any way he could. He was a great player for us.”
Duke has won three national lacrosse titles in the last five seasons. Duprey said lacrosse hasn’t and will never top the men’s basketball program in popularity.
“The men’s basketball program is known nationally and they have a strong following throughout country, as they should,” he said. “But we’re well known on our campus and we have a great following in Durham. That’s very gratifying.”
Duprey said he’ll have surgery on his knee in June and is expected to return to the Granite State in time to work some lacrosse camps in North Conway and Concord in July.