Photo Credit: Altitude TV
Sure the scores were eye-popping this week. 16-0 and 15-5 as DU throttled Cal and St. Mary’s at Peter Barton Stadium, two of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) bottom dwellers. But there is more to it – namely, the return of Nicole Martindale to the Pioneer squad.
Could DU women’s lacrosse be getting ready to make a run at the MPSF title? A thought that seemed unlikely a month ago may be a possibility as the DU women’s lacrosse team appears to be peaking with one game remaining before the MPFS playoffs begin.
The 5’11” Martindale provides skill, size, and aggression which has dramatically changed the complexion of a team searching for an identity earlier in the season. Martindale missed the first two-thirds of the season and the team’s results were inconsistent. As the 2015 rookie of the year in the MPSF, the talented red-shirt sophomore was sorely missed as the Pioneers failed to develop consistency and an offensive identity.
During their first nine games without Martindale, the Pioneers were 4-5 and averaging 8.2 goals per game while their opponents tallied 11.3 points-per-game. They were never able to string together more than one win in a row and struggled for consistency as they alternated between good games to bad games and back again. It looked like a rare rebuilding season for DU Women’s lacrosse.
Starting six games ago, Martindale reentered the Pioneer line-up in attack and began playing her way back into game shape. Starting out slowly against Stanford (0-6 on shots on goal), she has been steadily building her game and the Pioneers are peaking at just the right time with one regular league game remaining at Oregon.
Great players make other players better and that has been the case with Martindale. Take DU’s best attacker/midfielder Christa Reese. In the first nine games, she had 19 goals and 3 assists. Add Martindale to the mix for the last 6 games and Reese scored 22 goals with 5 assists. Martindale’s presence is helping the goals against average too as the ball has moved more to DU’s offensive side of the field.
With Martindale back into the rotation for the last six games, the Pioneers are 3-3 but getting better every game. The Pioneers averaged 10.5 points and their opponents 7.0 per game. After starting 0-6 on shots on goal her first game back against Stanford, she has scored 13 goals and five assists. One of the Pioneers best games may have come in a loss against undefeated USC when the Pioneers hung tough and lost 6-9 while Martindale delivered two goals.
In a year when almost everything is going right for DU athletics, could the Pioneers be ready to make an improbable run? The women’s lacrosse team may be ready to deliver one of the biggest surprises of the season if they can run the MPSF tournament table, especially against undefeated USC and long-time conference power Stanford April 28th through May 1st.
Either way, it is great to see Nicole Martindale back on the field for the Pioneers.