photo courtesy of Denver Athletics
Three steps. The University of Denver Pioneers follows a strategy of attempting to complete three separate postseason accomplishments which incrementally gain more importance and unite towards the ultimate prize, the national championship. On Saturday, April 28 afternoon, the Pioneers [11-2, 5-0 BIG EAST] claimed the first step and their fourth-consecutive BIG EAST regular season title. No. 4-ranked Denver defeated Marquette University 7-4 in the finale of the regular season. The outcome and DU’s performance highlighted internal flaws for the Pioneers, who extended their winning streak to seven.
“I think it’s really easy when you’re on a winning streak to get a little complacent,” senior captain and faceoff extraordinaire Trevor Baptiste said following the victory. “We have to refocus and redefine what success means individually and as a team.”
Baptiste completed the day with 9-of-11 faceoff wins. Baptiste, alongside his 10 other senior classmates were honored prior to faceoff in one of their potentially final games at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.
“You always have to count your blessings with every opportunity you get to play at Peter Barton Stadium,” Baptiste said. “You have to think all of your fans and everyone for the support. We’re excited for the [BIG EAST] tournament and excited to put our best foot forward.”
While the first step of the three-part plan was completed, the Pioneers – specifically the senior class – are aware of the refinement needed heading into the postseason where the magnitude and vitality amplifies with each passing game. The seniors are the last remaining group to have fulfilled the three-step process as the program did in 2015, on the journey to clinch its first national title.
“When you get down the stretch you go against better teams and teams that are fighting for their lives just as much as we are fighting for ours,” Baptiste said. “I think we just need to keep getting better and don’t look back, just keep looking forward.”
Marquette was able to expose Denver’s offense and disrupt the traditionally dynamic flow. The Pioneers committed 14 turnovers by the final whistle.
“Our guys have to be better. They have to shoot better,” DU head coach Bill Tierney said. “The other thing we are always forgetting is how well the other goalie played. He was very, very good.”
Marquette’s goalie, Cole Blazer, made 11 saves in comparison to DU’s goalie, Josh Matte, who made three.
Denver will travel to Villanova, Penn. where the Villanova Wildcats are hosting the 2018 BIG EAST tournament. The next step on the agenda is winning the BIG EAST championship. After that, the focus is directed to completing the third and final step; winning the national championship, through every leg that proceeds it.
“It is something that we talk about and its something we need to follow up with the guys; how important this third [postseason] season is coming up,” Tierney said. “You go through one nonconference season and it lasts 10 weeks. Then you go through the conference season that lasts five weeks then you go through this [BIG EAST tournament] in three days. You better have your antenna up and you better be ready.”