Class of 2018 poised to lead Denver back to Championship Weekend

Photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

For a program as meticulous and comprehensive as the [4/4] University of Denver Pioneers, the seniors are the glue of maintaining tradition, order, and critical experience to propel the team towards success.

Denver’s 2018 senior class is a pivotal group. Comprised of six midfielders, two attackmen, one LSM, one defender and one iconic faceoff specialist, the class of 2018 is one of the most accoladed and driven classes to have suited up for the Crimson and Gold.

The five midfielders include Jeremy Bosher, Connor Donahue, Nick Phillips, Joe Reid, Zach Runberg, and redshirt senior Connor Flynn. The attackmen are Grant Gravitt and Colton McCaffrey. The long-pole is Sean Mayle and Matt Jones is the lone defender. And at the “X” is the record-shattering Trevor Baptiste.

“As freshmen, these guys won a national championship [2015], they’ve been in a couple final fours and they’ve experienced a loss in the First Round,” DU head coach Bill Tierney. “They’ve won BIG EAST championships, they’ve won BIG EAST regular championships — if we win on Saturday they will go out as undefeated in the regular season. These guys have experienced a heck of a lot and they have created our experience to be great because of what they have given us. All the way from the top guy to the bottom, it’s just a phenomenal group. And to a guy like Connor Flynn who comes back for another year to enhance our team; they just represent what we [Denver Lacrosse] want to be all about.”

This senior class is the last group to offer that crucial experience of what means are necessary to be the final victor hoisting the championship trophy come Memorial Day Weekend in Foxboro, Mass. With that knowledge and success, this class has simultaneously been humbled by the vitality of the future games and what madness will ensue in the NCAA Tournament.

“What they have become is absolutely amazing,” DU offensive coordinator Matt Brown said. “They are a strong unit; they really care about each other, they all get along with each other and the rest of the team and they’ve done a great job of leading by example for the rest of our program. For a group of guys who were freshmen that didn’t play as big a part as they do now, outside of Trevor [Baptiste] — winning that championship their freshman year, to coming back their sophomore year and having that First Round disappointing exit, to having that upperclassmen leadership that they did last year to bring us back to the Final Four to now, taking this team forward to where we want to go; it’s been fun to watch.”

Baptiste is the sole four-year starter of the bunch. In contrast, the entirety of the group has embraced discipline and patience in earning time within the lineup.

“It’s definitely something you all want to do, you want to play a lot and contribute,” defender Matt Jones said. “Us [seniors], being able to do that is what you dream about as little kid; being able to play for a top program like DU.”

Jones has incrementally earned more playtime among the defensive line. The Denver native has relished his duration playing for the Pioneers as the remaining time approaches expiration.

“These four years have gone by really fast,” Jones said. “Looking back on it, it’s been a good career for our class and we’re all really excited. We just want to keep the train rolling and not look too far ahead or get lost in the emotions of Senior Day.”

For Baptiste, the first faceoff specialist to be selected first overall in the history of the Major League Lacrosse draft, by the Boston Cannons, the memories dominating the “X” at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium are incentive heading into the postseason.

“I’m just excited,” Baptiste said. “These guys — they’re my best friends. This place has given us so much. We’ve been through a lot together, but we’re not done yet.”

Baptiste battling for a faceoff at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium – photo courtesy of Denver Athletics

The diversity, depth, and talent of the senior class, all of whom have aided in the Pioneers’ priming, are significant contributors to the poise this DU team has displayed as they look to claim their second title.

“We believe to win a national championship you need a great senior class and this is a great senior class,” Tierney said. “Whether we win it or not — it’s going to come down to the bounce of the ball — but I do believe this class is driven to succeed at that. I believe they have a chance at doing that. I also know now is not the time to be looking back at how wonderful it was because the most important games are still ahead of us, so we’re looking forward.”

During the last BIG EAST conference game against Marquette University on Saturday, April 28, the seniors will be honored prior to the 1 p.m. faceoff. The seniors will be recognized and praised, but Saturday is just the beginning of the journey ahead.

“We just talked to them [the program] about how we’re celebrating the seniors on Saturday,” Brown said. “But this is just another game. We’re going to celebrate at the end of the year. We have a lot more lacrosse to be played.”

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