Photo courtesy Tom McCaffrey/DU Athletics
There’s still one week left in the regular season, but the #2 University of Denver Pioneers men’s lacrosse team now knows it will be the #1 seed for the BIG EAST Conference Tournament in Providence. Thanks to a 12-2 victory over the only team that could catch them in the standings and the hosts of the conference tournament, the Providence College Friars.
After a first quarter in which both defenses dominated the game, Denver pulled away from the Friars in the second quarter, outscoring them 5-0 in the second frame. From that point, the Pioneers didn’t look back, outscoring PC 6-2 the rest of the way.
While the seniors owned the spotlight before the game, as soon as the game started, freshman phenom Ethan Walker grabbed everyone’s attention, notching eight points on three goals and five assists. His eight points broke the single game points record by a DU freshman.
“I’m not going to take all the credit here,” Walker said. “It’s a whole team effort, especially on the offensive side of things. We have a great offensive unit. When we get the ball moving and have hard dodges, that’s how we become successful. I think that was a big key today.”
Providence’s defense has been touted as one of the country’s toughest this year, but with the pressure of beating Denver, a perennial contender, on the Pios’ turf on Senior Day seemed to get to them. They tried to muck it up and dictate play on defense, but it didn’t work.
Coming into this weekend, the expectation was Denver would struggle against Providence’s elite defense, but as the game wore on, it was Denver’s defense that imposed its will on Providence instead.
“Holding a team under 10 goals is always a plus,” junior faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste said. “Holding them to two goals is even better. We all came together and it seemed like we were all on the same page out there.”
“I thought the guys dug in today,” DU head coach Bill Tierney added. “They allowed Alex [Ready] to see shots and he’s very good at stopping them. It’s interesting that our defense had such a good day because it was a struggle [on offense] against a very very good defense.”
The Pioneers will be able to add this incredible defensive performance to its 2017 resume that already includes a shutout against Canisius that came early in the season.
With the regular season winding down and the #1 seed in the conference tournament assured, the Pioneers’ attention is starting to shift from the regular season to the postseason, where Denver hopes to bring home another two titles.
“I feel good that we put a good game like this together,” Tierney said. “Our offense has been carrying us, I’ll be honest. John Orson works so hard to put together defensive gameplans. When they can show themselves that they can play like this as a full team, the future could be bright.”
Still undefeated in conference play and on a five-game winning streak overall, the Pioneers seem to be peaking at the right time. There have been times this year when they’ve looked somewhat inconsistent, but they’re playing really good lacrosse right now and if things continue coming together the right way, Denver will be playing a lot more lacrosse in 2017.