Everything will be fine, Duke's Brian Dailey thought Monday as he watched Jordan Wolf score a goal, raise his arms, and pump his gloved right fist.
The seventh-seeded Blue Devils had stumbled into a 5-0 hole in the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse final, but all doubt seemed to dissipate in the second quarter while Wolf celebrated in the northeast corner of Lincoln Financial Field.
A former Lower Merion High star, Wolf finished with four goals, but none more important than the first one, as he steadied Duke and guided his team to its first national title since 2010 in a 16-10 win over top-seeded Syracuse.
The Blue Devils (16-5) scored 12 of the next 14 goals, and Wolf said they needed that first one to remind themselves they were still in the game. He scored four times in both final-four games and boosted his season total to 57 goals.
Wolf said he downplayed his return to Philadelphia all week so he could remain focused on the game. A title can be won in any stadium, the junior told coach John Danowski. But he said winning in front of about 40 family members and close friends was "the best moment ever."
"There are no words," Wolf said. "This is the culmination of everything."
Instead of drawing a matchup with the Orange's top defender, Brian Megill, Wolf matched up with junior David Hamlin. Wolf said he was a little surprised, but he still expected a challenge. He repeatedly attacked Hamlin from behind the net, including the goal that handed Duke its first lead, a 6-5 advantage with 1 minute, 51 seconds remaining in the first half.
Dylan Donahue scored three times for Syracuse (16-4).
Wolf's presence opened up space for fellow attack Josh Dionne to score three goals. Josh Offit also scored a hat trick. Jake Tripucka, a midfielder, scored twice and assisted on two other goals. Kyle Turri sealed the win with 10 saves.
Bill Conners, a senior defenseman from Malvern Prep, stabilized Duke's defense after the early setback and limited Syracuse's Derek Maltz to just one shot and no points. Brendan Fowler, the game's outstanding player, won 20 of his 28 faceoffs.
"He's been doing it all year," said Dailey, a former Conestoga High star. "We kind of expected him to be that great. It was awesome to see him in the third quarter. They just couldn't get the ball."
Conners, Dailey, and Wolf are joined at Duke by Jamie Ikeda (Conestoga), Henry Lobb (Malvern Prep), Tanner Scott (Conestoga), and Dan Wigrizer (Haverford School).
Wolf ended his afternoon with an easy goal in the fourth quarter. He spread his arms wide before a pair of teammates embraced. They huddled and told one another that the title was not clinched yet, even with about three minutes to go.
And after the horn sounded, Wolf raced across the field with his championship hat on sideways as the Blue Devils littered the field with their sticks and helmets.
"I could never dream of winning this," Wolf said. "I was just shocked."
Goals: D-Jordan Wolf 4, Josh Dionne 3, Josh Offit 3, Jake Tripucka 2, David Lawson 2, Christian Walsh 1, Myles Jones 1. S-Dylan Donahue 3, JoJo Marasco 2, Kevin Rice 1, Luke Cometti 1, Scott Loy 1; Joe Fazio 1; Billy Ward 1.
Saves: D-Kyle Turri 10, Luke Aaron 2. S-Dominic Lamolinara 11.