Mike Caravana states without hesitation where Ben Duhoski stacks up in the annals of his 25-year coaching career at Denison.
“Ben’s one of the top four or five guys I’ve coached here,” Caravana said. “He can do a multitude of things, and is such a good athlete where we can put him anywhere on the field.”
It’s high praise from Caravana, a former four-time All-American attackman at Virginia who has led the Big Red to three NCAA Division III final four appearances and 11 North Coast Athletic Conference championships, coaching 64 All-Americans along the way.
But Caravana is adamant that Duhoski, a senior defenseman and one of four Big Red captains in 2018, belongs alongside the program’s greats. He’s a two-time All-American and first-team All-NCAC honoree and was named NCAC Defensive Player of the Year in 2017.
Awards, simply, have been synonymous with Duhoski’s career in Granville, Ohio, though the latest nod from Caravana took him by surprise.
“Hundreds of good players have come through here, so hearing that, I feel proud and hope I live up to the expectation,” Duhoski said, speechless for several moments before continuing. “I just find it humbling.”
So what shapes the 22-year-old? The answer, regardless of who you ask, is clear: His competitive drive.
During Duhoski’s time at the Millbrook School, a boarding school in New York’s Hudson Valley, that characteristic was evident to David Mullen, his high school coach.
“That kid on a lacrosse field, it was like a hot pool on a winter day,” said Mullen, also the former head coach at The Hill School. “As soon as he got in, he never wanted to get out and wanted to stay there forever. He was super passionate about the sport and became more serious with being in physical shape as he got older.”
Now at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Duhoski’s competitive nature has never wavered. His parents both played at Maryland, though he didn’t get serious with club lacrosse until his junior year of high school. Duhoski also grew up playing football, soccer and basketball.
“Once I could walk, I had a [lacrosse] stick in my hands,” Duhoski said.
Duhoski weighed Division I looks from Boston University and UMass, but was drawn to Denison because it reminded him of Millbrook’s campus and feel. From there, Duhoski’s competitive drive flourished on the lacrosse field, of course, and in intramural sports, of all places.
Liam Burman, a three-year starter alongside Duhoski, said they’ve won three intramural football championships while at Denison, with his classmate playing tight end or inside linebacker. Then, in 3-on-3 intramural basketball, Duhoski’s team won championships his freshman and senior years.
For Burman, those accomplishments lay the competitive groundwork for Caravana to anoint Duhoski as one of Denison’s elite players.
“Coach C doesn’t toss that around lightly because of his background and how he’s coached a lot of really high-end players,” Burman said. “Ben has earned that right since he brings it every day. It all adds up there.”
Come game day, Duhoski also typically finds himself matched up against an opponent’s best player, a role he relishes.
Asked about some favorite assignments, Duhoski pointed to marking Salisbury’s Nathan Blondino, a two-time All American and Capital Athletic Conference Player of the Year in 2017. Another was Ohio Wesleyan’s Marcus Dietz, an All-American in his own right who racked up 130 points across the 2015 and 2016 seasons.
“I like to follow that guy around and set a goal of not letting him get on the board,” Duhoski said.
“I take that really personally, when I’m lining up against another guy who’s an AllAmercan and has these stats. I’ll take it as a jab if he can put up big numbers against us.”
Throughout 2018, Duhoski will likely encounter more tall taks. The Big Red scheduled NESCAC foes Middlebury and Amherst, plus Dickinson and Ohio Wesleyan, two nationally ranked teams. Denison, currently undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the Nike/US Lacrosse Division III Men’s Top 20, will meet No. 8 Amherst and No. 20 Dickinson as part of the fifth-annual Mustang Classic this weekend at Stevenson. The event also features No. 1 RIT, No. 4 York, Lynchburg, Nazareth and host Stevenson.
“We’re a team that prides itself on a balance of offense and defense, and I’ll have to shut them down some,” Duhoski said.
And if Duhoski has his way, that trend will continue with the senior’s aim to play on Memorial Day weekend at Gillette Stadium in the Division III championship game. It’s an ambitious goal, but speaks volumes to where Duhoski’s mind — and competitive drive — stands in his final season with Denison.
“I want us to be synonymous with getting to that level every year,” Duhoski said. “I want to be known as the group that helped pave the way.”