Photo courtesy Tom McCaffrey
After a devastating loss to Towson University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last May, the University of Denver Pioneers Men’s Lacrosse team has worked harder than ever in the offseason according to head coach Bill Tierney. They’re eager to atone for last season’s abrupt ending. The Pioneers embark on the 2017 campaign with a home-opener against the Air Force Falcons this Saturday (Feb. 11) at 1 p.m.
“We all have a little sour taste in our mouth from how it ended last year so we have a lot to make up for and a lot to look forward to,” said junior captain and FOGO specialist Trevor Baptiste.
In the last meeting between the Pioneers and the Falcons, then-reigning national champion Denver set out to defend its title. The Falcons fired five consecutive goals in the 3rd quarter to grab a one-goal lead over the Pioneers. DU powered back in the 4th quarter, securing the 10-9 win, but the game served as a turning point between the familiar foes.
Last weekend on Feb. 5, the Falcons mirrored their performance against the Pioneers rallying for 5 unanswered goals in the 3rd quarter to clinch an 11-10 victory over No. 10 Duke.
“It’s definitely not hard to get up for this game,” said Baptiste. “It’s the first game of the season against Air Force. They’re so close to us. They always take pride in keeping it a close game and trying to beat us. They’re an up-and-coming team. We watched their game against Duke and they have a lot of swift players. They come at you from a lot of different angles. We’re just trying to prepare for it the best we can and the best we can for the season. Just getting out there having some fun.”
The Air Force lacrosse program has asserted itself on the national level after dropping a 15-7 decision against Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season. Since taking the helm as AFA head coach, Eric Seremet has led his program to its highest national ranking in program history, was named USILA DI 2014 Coach of the Year and 2016 Southern Conference Coach of the Year.
“Those guys work extremely hard,” Tierney said. “Lacrosse is a sport where if you work hard there are enough kids out there that can be really good players on a really good team. I think their coaching staff is phenomenal. You throw into that the quality of the place they are representing, it’s hard to beat. You’ve got young men who are pretty focused and know what their lives are all about. When you put that all together with representing your country that, ‘Never say die’ attitude, discipline, its made it more formulable. In the past, before even or eight years, Air Force was a cool place to play at and get a great education. Now you’re getting a great education along with being one of the best lacrosse teams in the country.”
Saturday’s game will be sure to entertain the masses. The Pioneers are primed and eager to get the season rolling and Air Force is looking to clinch its second straight upset. Despite the rainy forecast, this is a matchup you won’t want to miss.