DURHAM, N.C. – As the afternoon progressed Sunday, Duke couldn’t muster an answer for Maryland faceoff specialist Curtis Holmes.
Not CJ Costabile. Not Brendan Fowler. Not Terrence Molinari.
Each had multiple shots at the Terrapins’ sophomore. None could sustain success – or give Duke consistent possession – in Maryland’s 11-9 victory in the ACC title game at Koskinen Stadium.
While Grant Catalino was named the tournament’s MVP (and understandably so, since he scored the game-winner Friday against North Carolina and added three goals against Duke), Holmes was the catalyst in sending Maryland to its first conference championship since 2005.
“It was a matter of the faceoff game,” Duke coach John Danowski said. “When you win 25 percent of the faceoffs, I thought we played defense pretty well over long stretches, but too much defense.”
Holmes was 18-for-24, matching his second best faceoff percentage of the season. It came after what constitutes a pedestrian day for the sophomore: An even split of 16 draws in Friday’s 7-6 defeat of North Carolina.
For much of the last decade – and certainly coming into this season – faceoffs were a bit of a trouble spot for Maryland. Sometimes things sorted themselves out. Other times, the Terps never could settle on a quality faceoff guy.
Holmes didn’t let that become a problem this season. Sunday was the sixth straight game he took every draw for Maryland. In that stretch – which features four games against ACC opponents, plus dates with Navy and Johns Hopkins – Holmes is 80-for-127 (63.0 percent).
He was particularly impressive against Costabile, a long pole who won the national title game for the Blue Devils last spring with a clean win and goal at the start of overtime against Notre Dame. Holmes was 9-for-13 against Costabile.
“It’s a lot of preparation,” Holmes said. “During the week, you watch film and study what he does and what his tendencies are. I just try to do my thing and get it out as quick as I can because I know if I keep it in there, he’s big and he’s strong and he’s good with his stick.”
It was also significant improvement from the last time the pair met, when Costabile was 10-for-18 against several Maryland faceoff men (though mostly Holmes).
“He really did a great job,” Costabile said. “He went with the whistle and was feeling it and kept going. Personally, I didn’t make it as big of a scrap and let out wings get involved, and I’ll take the hit for that.”