Duke's Zack Greer plays on the crease like a power forward plays in the paint in the NBA. An assortment of moves allows him to get free inside, or he can simply outmuscle you. There is enough speed where he can take you to the goal from the outside, but his game is trading elbows and bumping and grinding on the inside.
In three seasons, Greer has become lacrosse's top finisher, and yesterday his goal with three seconds remaining gave Duke a 12-11 victory over Cornell in an NCAA Division I men's semifinal game at M&T Bank Stadium. The goal was vintage Greer.
Teammate Terrence Molinari won the last faceoff and tossed a pass to middie Peter Lamade. Despite Cornell's Danny Nathan being draped over Greer's back like a blanket, Greer took a pass just outside of the crease and to the right of the goal. He then turned and tossed a short 5-yard shot by Big Red All-America goalie Matt McMonagle for the game-winner.
He looked just like the San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan.
"We had the same guy we had on him the whole game, and he did a nice job on him," McMonagle said. "It was a desperation pass, and he is very good at handling those type of passes. He has very quick hands and mixes it [shots] up. When he is shooting from 4 or 5 yards in, there is nothing you can do."
Greer is virtually automatic. Yesterday he had four goals and one assist, giving him 67 goals and 26 assists for the season. He has a shooting percentage of .558, and has connected on 70.5 percent of his shots on goal.
That's hot. That's gunslinger material.
"He has the uncanny ability to score from almost any angle," Maryland coach Dave Cottle said. "He's unbelievable at times."
Greer, a junior, doesn't miss a lot because he spent most of his childhood playing box lacrosse in Canada, where the goals are significantly smaller than the outdoor ones in the United States. He is used to playing in tight space because the game up north is played indoors.
American high school and college coaches constantly preach to their attackmen about being able to cradle with both hands, but Greer plays mostly with his left hand. Only one of his goals this season has been scored with the right one.
"Sometimes, I think we need to look into what they're doing," Duke coach John Danowski said of the Canadians. "They keep producing all these great scorers. In practice, I tell all the Americans to go left and right, and Zack just to keep doing what he does."
But the biggest problem Greer presents is his size -- 6 feet 2 and 190 pounds, plus a long arm span. When he comes from over the top with a shot, goalies have trouble picking up the ball. Deception is a big part of his game because he is a magician with the stick.
And Greer loves contact.
"Canadians are used to a lot of contact. They fight all the time in their game," Danowski said. "Zack takes a lot of hits, but he never complains about being hurt or some of the checks. I heard the [Paul and Gary] Gaits were like that when they were in Syracuse."
The Gaits, though, were midfielders and controlled the ball. Greer is a finisher. But unlike some Canadians, who like to just hang around the goal, Greer stays in motion, which is why he is on the end of a lot of passes from fellow attackman Matt Danowski.
But since learning how to play the American game the past three seasons, he has become a more complete player.
"He'll ride you tough," Virginia coach Dom Starsia said. "Those long arms allow him to knock down a lot of passes. I bet you he has picked up a lot of ground balls for Duke this season [fourth best on the team with 54]."
That's not his specialty, though. Greer's job is to score goals. He had one yesterday in the first quarter on an assist from Danowski, and another late in the second, which triggered a three-goal spurt by Duke. He opened the scoring for both teams in the third quarter and closed out Cornell's season with the game-winner.
"They played me all game with a short stick, and they were doing a great job," Greer said. "They forced me to play by instinct. I got an unbelievable pass on my stick, and I just tried to get in position. When I caught it, I didn't think I had much of an angle."
Cornell spent a lot of time last week preparing for Greer. The Big Red had its own Canadian, senior attackman David Mitchell, playing Greer in practice. According to McMonagle, he gave Cornell some good looks. But that was only practice. Yesterday was for real.
"His box experience shows he can catch anything," McMonagle said. "He slipped a couple by me today. Good players make good plays in big games, and that's what he did."