Pioneers clinch fourth straight BIG EAST regular season title, top seed heading into conference tournament

Photo courtesy DU Athletics

Marquette goalie Cole Blazer once again played one of his best games in Denver making 14 saves but this time, it wasn’t enough. The #4 Denver Pioneers rode a balanced attack and a great performance from their own goalie, Josh Matte, to beat the Golden Eagles 7-4 and clinch their fourth straight BIG EAST regular season championship and enter next weekend’s BIG EAST Tournament as the top seed.

The Pioneers can attribute much of their 2018 success to their potent offensive attack. With Austin French and Ethan Walker quarterbacking the offense, Denver hasn’t had to worry about keeping up with other talented offensive teams. Today, however, it wasn’t DU’s offense that led them to victory; it was Denver’s stout defense and Matte’s timely saves that carried the day.

“When you look at today in particular, there’s not very much to be excited about except for our goalie and our defense,” DU head coach Bill Tierney said. “We just didn’t have it today offensively…I thought we settled for some shots that we normally don’t settle for. One thing you always forget is how well the other goalie played and he was very very good. He’s always played well against us.”

As well as Blazer played for Marquette, Denver’s defense wouldn’t let the Golden Eagles gain any momentum from his play between the pipes. DU stifled the Marquette attack and rendered Matte irrelevant at times. While Blazer kept Marquette in the game, especially in the second half, it was Matte’s performance that put the kibosh on any potential Golden Eagle comeback.

While the offense struggled, senior star faceoff specialist Trevor Baptiste led the way winning 11-of-13 faceoffs and added a goal of his own on Senior Day while Walker added three assists and French tallied a hat trick. It wasn’t a total lost cause on offense but it certainly wasn’t the performance fans are accustomed to seeing at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.

“It means a lot,” Baptiste said of winning the regular season title. “It’s something special, on Senior Day as well. You always have to count your blessings with every opportunity you get to play at Peter Barton Stadium.”

Regardless of how it came, the victory is an important one. Denver has the inside track on taking home another BIG EAST Tournament title and it will only enhance their NCAA Tournament resume which, surprisingly, isn’t as strong as it probably should be. That’s not to say that their path to the conference title will get any easier. There’s a good chance that they’ll have to play the thorn in their side they call Marquette once again in the semifinal round on Thursday.

“We have a lot of work to do coming into this week,” Baptiste said. “It’s going to be a tough matchup [potentially] playing the same team back-to-back. We’re really excited.”

The game wasn’t pretty for the Pioneers, but they’re not going to give it back. They are and should be pleased with the win, which also clinched another undefeated season in conference play. The real season is just starting, though and the slate is wiped clean. The Pioneers are playing for their lives again. This time, they’re planning on bringing home a couple new pieces of hardware.

17 thoughts on “Pioneers clinch fourth straight BIG EAST regular season title, top seed heading into conference tournament”

  1. Brandon MacNeill’s twitter account shows a picture of about 500 DU lax fans and he compares it to a Georgia/Florida football tailgate…..I’ll have what he is smoking. Can’t draw a consistent crowd for a reigning national champ in hockey and then compares a lax tailgate to an SEC football game….cmon…where does DU hire these clowns?!?


    1. DU has been recognized by a number of visiting players and parents for having one of the best tailgates in lacrosse. If you went to the tailgate today – it was impressive. You seem stressed. Big hugs from LetsGoDU!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, the tailgate experience was impressive for a DU lax game.
    Still…I agree about MacNeill. DU could have done a lot better. When Creech gets here next week hopefully he will replace this washed up used car salesman with a young, dynamic person who can relate to alumni, donors, and the greater Denver community.


  3. DU will never be an SEC school, but the Pios DO have the best student experience game day in D-I lacrosse, and it’s Brandon’s job to make sure other people know about it, and that’s what exactly he does with enthusiasm.

    Seriously, DU hockey’s attendance was 7th in the country at 94% of capacity this year, ahead of schools like Michigan, Notre Dame and BC, and BU, and DU lax sells out every game.

    DU (and Brandon Macneill) are doing just fine…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. DU only sells out in Lax because they only put about 1,800 tickets on sale. There is a reason they don’t want expand. Put’s their sell-out streak in jeopardy. Just saying.


    2. Swap enthusiasm for delusion above. And 7th in the country after winning a national championship with a team loaded with nhl talent and the top goalie in the NCAA doesn’t scream excellence.

      Glad I know where to go in Denver when I need some snake oil though.


  4. Puck Swami, what is your basis for your statement about DU being the best lax student experience. Please cite your references, or footnotes.
    You’ve been to D1 lacrosse games at Hopkins, Virginia, Notre Dame?? Syracuse??


  5. ‘Best” is always subjective. DU students don’t have football so this is a one of the few ‘pre-game’ tailgate experiences they can have. I went to a number of lacrosse games when I lived out east (Villanova, Princeton, Rutgers, Penn & Stony Brook to name a few). Nothing like I saw yesterday by the DU students. While we have not been afraid to point attendance issues in the past when we see them, yesterday’s tailgate was a spectacle and a lot of fun.

    The reality for DU hockey in Denver is that there is a massive amount of competition for the sports and entertainment dollar. And several options are less expensive than DU hockey. Add the fact that nearly a quarter of DU students study abroad each year and many foreign students have not been around the ‘hockey culture’ – filling seats is not always as easy as many other markets.

    But, like all consumers, you can vote with your feet and drive to Loveland for a Colorado Eagles game. Tell us how it goes!


  6. I have been to a number of different lacrosse campus game days, over the years including Duke, UVA, Hopkins, Syracuse, Delaware, Hofstra, Penn, Harvard, and Navy. None of them draw as many student fans as DU does, although some overall crowds are larger, and DU’s student’s don’t often stay after halftime if the game isn’t close, so there is that.

    UVA’s game experience is nice – although lax there plays a second fiddle to baseball, but iconic campus and some fantastic southern sundress viewing on the grass hill make Charlottesville memorable. Navy has the Corps of Midshipmen, the cool football stadium and the considerable charm of Annapolis, SU has the loud Dome crowds and Hopkins has historic Homewood Field with its small band, but Barton has the best tailgate, the best student crowd size and the best overall ambience I have seen so far…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. hopefully the new AD can get some more seats for lacrosse stadium and finally hire a real marketing pro for athletics dept – fans/coaches/student-athletes deserve better!


  8. Thanks for setting us straight! The country’s best lacrosse environment is on a much smaller scale than the pre-game for an football game in the south. What would do without your illuminating reality check?


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