#17 AIR FORCE at #2 DUKE
Saturday, Feb. 3, 1 p.m. ET
Koskinen Stadium, Durham, NC
THIS WEEKEND: Air Force lacrosse opens the 2017 regular season slate on the road against perennial powerhouse, No. 2 Duke, Saturday, Feb. 3, at Koskinen Stadium, Durham, N.C. The Falcons and Blue Devils are scheduled to meet at centerfield at 1:00 p.m. ET.
LAST TIME AT KOSKINEN STADIUM: Nick Hruby registered four goals for a hat trick performance to lead the Falcons to an 11-10 upset win over perennial powerhouse, then-No. 10 Duke, at Koskinen Field, Durham, N.C. The win over Duke marked the Falcons' second one-point win in Durham in two-straight seasons (2016, 10-9 OT). Before the 2016 season, the last time Air Force beat Duke was in 1975.
THE SERIES: Air Force and Duke will meet for the 11th time on Saturday afternoon. Duke leads the series, 6-4, with Air Force notching their most recent victory in last year’s season opener. The teams first met in 1968, where the Falcons registered the program’s largest margin of victory over Duke with a 15-2 final score.
TUNE IN: The ACC Network Extra will provide a live broadcast to be streamed on the ESPN3 platform. Fans can access the link to the live stream at goairforcefalcons.com and clicking the watch live link in the schedule dropdown. A cable subscription is required for viewing.
UP NEXT: The Falcons will host Big East Conference front-runners and 2017 NCAA quarter-finalists, the Denver Pioneers, Saturday, Feb. 10, at 1:00 p.m. MT. Denver, who checked in at No. 4 in the USILA preseason coaches’ poll, will take on Air Force in the 77th meeting between the programs. A live stream of the game will be provided by Falcon Vision via the goairforcefalcons.com platform.
IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS: The two-time defending Southern Conference champions checked in at No. 17 in the USILA annual preseason rankings. The Falcons are also receiving votes in the Inside Lacrosse preseason polls. The ranking marks Air Force’s second-straight year in the national preseason polls. Air Force is returning to the field from its second-straight NCAA tournament bid.
SOCON FAVORITES: Two-time defending Southern Conference champion Air Force was picked to win the league again in 2018 in a vote of the eight league head coaches. The coaches also picked a 16-member preseason All-Southern Conference team, with the Falcons claiming a league-best six selections. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams or student-athletes.
Air Force earned 47 points in the preseason poll, picking up six first-place votes, while Richmond was second with 43 points and claimed the remaining two first-place votes. Both teams have earned national recognition in the preseason, with Air Force checking in at No. 17 in the USILA/Nike Lacrosse Preseason Coaches Poll and Richmond earning a No. 20 preseason ranking from Inside Lacrosse.
The Falcons and Spiders have met in each of the last two SoCon tournament finals, with Air Force emerging victorious both times.
FALCONS ON THE PRESEASON ALL-SOCON TEAM: Seniors Nick Hruby and Chris Walsch earned preseason honors at attacker after taking first-team all-conference honors in 2017. Walsch, the two-time defending SoCon Player of the Year, led the league in overall points (64) and goals (36); it is his third time being selected on the All-SoCon team. Hruby round out the attack selections as he was second in the conference in overall goals (35) and third in overall points (45).
The Falcons’ Grant Gould received the honors in the midfield after finishing in the top 10 in goals per game in the SoCon last season.
Brandon Jones, the 2016 SoCon Freshman of the Year, headlines the SoCon’s four defensemen on the squad. He led the SoCon with 86 total ground balls and finished third with 4.78 per game last season.
Trent Harper was the pick at faceoff specialist after earning first-team all-conference honors at the position in 2017. Harper was second last season in faceoff percentage at .580 and fifth in ground balls per game (4.56). Joe Matarazzo earned the distinction of being one of the first short stick midfielder on the preseason squad.
MAKING A HOME IN THE SOCON: In their second year as a Southern Conference affiliate member, the Falcons went 13-1 in the last two regular seasons combined, adding four more league wins en route to a second conference championship. The conference title marks the third conference title in four years; Air Force won the ECAC in 2014 and was independent in 2015.
Air Force placed five players on the All-SoCon first-team, decided by the league’scoaches. Walsch is joined by teammate Nick Hruby, as first-team attackers. The Falcon's Grant Gould helps comprise the first-team midfield, while Brandon Jones rounds out the defense. Trent Harper was voted on as the league’s top faceoff specialist. Junior defender Sean LaVine was added to the second-team’s close defenseman line.
Falcons earned player of the week honors four times, a player of the month accolade and a player of the year honor.
BUILD, BUILD, BUILD: Air Force earned a spot in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years and the fifth time overall, last season. Air Force met with Maryland in the program’s first-ever NCAA appearance in 1971, where they fell to the Terps, 10-1. In 1988, the Air Force met Loyola in the first-round where they were downed, 19-8. In 2014, Air Force saw it’s first-ever modern-era tournament appearance, topping Richmond, 13-5, in the play-in game. The win marked Air Force’s first-ever NCAA tournament win. They Falcons faced off against Duke in the ensuing first round of NCAA action where they fell, 20-9. Following a record-breaking 15-game win streak in the 2016 campaign, Air Force earned a program-first bid into the first round where they met with Notre Dame. Air Force fell to the Irish, 15-7, in South Bend, Ind. For the second-straight year, Air Force has earned a first-round berth by way of the Southern Conference’s automatic bid; the feat marks a program-first.
ON THE FIELD AND IN THE BOOKS: Five Falcon lacrosse players, Cameron Carter, Nick Hruby, Sheamus Larkin, Joe Matarazzo and Andrew Tien were been named to the Spring 2017 Academic All-Southern Conference Team. The 2017 academic all-conference selection marks the second selection in as many years in the conference for Larkin, Matarazzo and Tien. The Falcons also added 22 players to the 2017 SoCon Academic Honor Roll.
IN THE MAJORS NOW: Three former Falcon lacrosse players were drafted to the Major League Lacrosse’s outdoor league, Dec. 14. Erik Smith, class of 2014, is headed back to the Boston Cannons while, Alex Warden and Christopher Allen, class of 2016, head to the Denver Outlaws and Charlotte Hounds, respectively.
Former Falcon lacrosse star, Tommy McKee, was selected to join the National Lacrosse League’s Rochester Nighthawks last October. McKee, a 2014 graduate of the Air Force Academy, is currently on active duty stationed at McConnell AFB, Kan.