Towson stuns Denver 10-9 in first-round thriller

Photo courtesy of Aaron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

The University of Denver Pioneers lacrosse team will not defend their 2015 National Title. Despite Trevor Baptiste’s herculean 20-of-22 effort at the faceoff X, the University of Denver will not participate in Championship Weekend for just the second time since 2011. The 2016 DU lacrosse team is done and the 2016 Towson Tigers will move on to face Loyola in the quarterfinal round in Columbus, Ohio.

Baptiste played like a man on a mission to singlehandedly take the Tigers down. Unfortunately, his offensive teammates wouldn’t cooperate. By halftime, the Pioneers had turned the ball over nine times.

“Trevor was just fantastic as he always is,” DU head coach Bill Tierney said. “We just couldn’t seem to get it going. We couldn’t beat anybody early.”

Passes went over Pioneers’ heads and the ball just wouldn’t stay in DU’s sticks. As uncharacteristic as this is for the Denver offense, Towson came into the day ranked second in the country in total defense, allowing an average of just seven goals per game.

By halftime, the turnover discrepancy was the reason the Tigers were ahead on the scoreboard. If it wasn’t for two late man-up goals by the Pioneers, it’s entirely possible that the halftime score would have been 6-1 in favor of the Tigers rather than 6-3.

“You’ve got to give Towson credit,” Tierney said. “Some of those were guys trying too hard. A couple of our guys felt like they had their guy beat, got inside, and all of a sudden they got a stick check on them and the ball goes down.”

In short, with the exception of the last three or four minutes, the Pioneers didn’t play well in the first half. From turnovers to missed opportunities (Zach Miller hit two posts), Denver just couldn’t do anything against the Tigers’ stingy defense.

In the second half, as the sun started to peek through the clouds for the first time, the Pioneers offense looked like it was finally waking up and imposing its will on the Tigers defense. Though Towson was up 7-5 heading into the fourth quarter, a goal from Colton Jackson with just 1.5 seconds left in the third woke the crowd up and gave the crimson and gold some hope.

Towson goalie, Tyler White was the story of the second half, making nine of his 13 total saves in the final thirty minutes, including six in the fourth quarter alone. Despite giving up two early goals in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter to allow the Pioneers to draw even at seven, White stood on his head to keep Denver from gaining the lead. Whether it was with a kick or a stick, White did what he had to do to keep Towson in control of the game.

Less than a minute after Connor Donahue tied the game at seven, White made a key stick save on a great shot from the Pioneers to keep the game tied. After Towson cleared, Spencer Parks scored on a defensive lapse in front of goalie Alex Ready to regain the lead for the Tigers.

“I didn’t feel [any worry] from our guys,” Towson head coach Shawn Nadelen said when asked about the atmosphere on the sideline after DU tied it at seven. “Speaking to our experience and our veteran group, we just knew we needed the ball. When we did get it to our offense, they were able to extend [the lead].”

Two Towson goals later, the Pioneers were down three goals with just 3:46 left in the game. Thanks to excellent defense and smothering offensive pressure, Connor Cannizzaro and Zach Miller closed the gap to 10-9 with 13 seconds left.

Despite Baptiste winning the ensuing faceoff, DU turned the ball over on an errant pass and Towson ran off the rest of the clock to secure the upset and earn a trip to Ohio in the quarterfinal round.

“You always have to be careful when you come back from deep,” Tierney explained. “The psychology is always that when you get even, ‘ok we’re here, now it’s going to go our way.’ It doesn’t work like that. Usually, when you make that long run back and you tie it up, usually there is some kind of letdown and that’s what happened today.”

The Pioneers dominated groundballs 34-22 and all but two faceoffs. Without looking at the scoreboard, those stats would indicate that the Pioneers won this game by at least seven or eight goals. Instead, they lost by one because Towson wouldn’t let the Pioneers hold onto the ball.

“It’s very rare that we lose two in a row here at Peter Barton Stadium,” Tierney said. “I felt like we just couldn’t get over that hump. We just couldn’t do it.”


Be sure to keep up with LetsGoDU over the next couple of weeks as we will put out a lacrosse season recap and begin looking ahead to the 2017 squad.

11 thoughts on “Towson stuns Denver 10-9 in first-round thriller”

  1. Congrats to a well prepared and inspired Towson team. That said, alot of Pios had really bad days! Lot’s of turnovers, poor passing and ran into a very good goalie.

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  2. Really a horrible effort by our Pioneers today, except Baptiste. To have your team win 20 of 22 faceoffs, with all the firepower and supposed offensive genius coaching, it’s pretty incomprehensible that DU would lose to an unhearalded team like Towson…at home! (Though big props to Towson, who played fantastic.) Don’t mean to pile on, but Tyler Pace looked horrible on a few plays, just throwing the ball to absolutely nobody, and contributing to the turnover nightmare. (Assuming Pace is #3.) Cannizzaro wasn’t much better, he was running around, constantly slipping, trying to do too much. And whoever it was that had the ball in front of the goal with 5 seconds left and didn’t shoot….good grief. Most importantly, a big BOO to the coaching staff today…I kept thinking we’d make the right adjustments, but it didn’t happen. Perhaps we don’t have a gunner like Berg anymore who can fire at will from outside, but it was just weird that we couldn’t hang on to the ball, couldn’t find a way through the Towson defense, couldn’t take advantage of what they were allowing for outside shots.

    Also, thanks for the students for showing up in great numbers, and mustering like 3 cheers the whole game. That was a little embarassing. The kids should remember that it’s cool to cheer for your team. It’s not a library, which is a couple blocks away.

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  3. Come on anonymous, it wasn’t for lack of effort. Kids played hard. No need to single out individuals who in your eyes played subpar. College kids, not pros. We simply are not as good a passing or defense team as last year. Towson D was terrific. Students not going nuts is pathetic.

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  4. Pios played hard, but unfortunately played the most mistake-laden game I’ve seen in a long time. Very uncharacteristic.

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  5. Do people really think that beating up on students, for hockey and basketball attendance and now lacrosse games, is going to change anything? The overwhelming majority of students don’t read this blog, nor do they probably even know it exists.

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  6. Great season with a sour ending. DU had a sloppy 14 turnovers yesterday, wiping out the huge 20 for 22 faceoff advantage Baptiste gave them. Towson’s defense and goaltending were superior yesterday, but DU also also played bit too tight and seemingly lacked some fire/hunger until the fourth quarter. Two straight home losses after three years without a home loss will give the coaches lots to think about leading into next season as DU returns with perhaps it’s best ever team, at least on paper.

    I think it’s time for DU to start adding more early/transition offense to their standard pull-out into the six on six set offense. Top defensive opponents have adjusted to DU’s patterns and been able to defend the six on six pretty well in the last few weeks. DU had a number of early unsettleded numbers advantage opportunities yesterday that they declined to take, presumably because the coaches didn’t want them to play anything but their settled patterns,

    The student bonding level with DU lacrosse is still in the formative stages. Perhaps DU student crowds are not used to DU playing from behind. Anyway, I am just glad when they come to the games in numbers, and yesterday’s turnout was good.

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  7. Swami-Good points. I think the DU fans at Barton might have been in shock as DU was not playing well and Towson took charge early. CD- Love your passion, but don’t criticize the players and bash the fans is off base.

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  8. Ha, I think we can rest assured that our criticism of turnover prone players is 5 on a scale of 100, compared to the 90 on a scale of 100 that they experience from Tierney when they return to the sidelines! As for the students–again, great numbers, but they were being outcheered by 15 middle aged people for the other team, which is odd, to say the least. Criticism not meant to spur changes, and not made under the illusion that students are coming to this blog to read comments. Just for discussion among the regular DU fans who know what I am talking about.

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  9. Congrats to @ConnorCanz_40! Only 2 of the 5 finalists will be playing next weekend.
    The game itself certainly was disappointing. Poor passing or was it catching? So many turnovers.. Since the first game against Marquette (even though we won that one) the team has not looked as sharp as I expected at this time of the year. I agree with Swami, lack of fire or hunger from the team and halftime adjustments from the coaches.

    Yes, the Towson fans could be heard more often than DU’s. That’s sad.

    Win one National Championship and what do you expect? Another one! Maybe next year.

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  10. What a disappointment. Based on my very limited knowledge of lacrosse, DU just looked out of sync. Lacked execution and polish. At times the game looked like a haphazard practice session. Tough to see the season end like that.

    It happens every year in these one-and-done NCAA tournament scenarios, regardless of the sport. You have a bad period, a bad half, a bad game etc and all of sudden your season is over. Such is the beauty/curse of the one loss and your out scenario, depending on what side you land.

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