It wasn’t a guarantee that the Denver Pioneers women’s lacrosse program would even be at this point, playing the top-seeded Maryland Terrapins in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, a week ago. After a great regular season and BIG EAST Tournament that ended at the hands of the Florida Gators in the conference title game, Denver remained on the bubble heading into Selection Sunday. Thanks to a number of major conference victories and a signature nonconference victory over the Colorado Buffaloes, Denver was awarded a spot in the NCAA Tournament.
The Pioneers responded to the well-deserved Tournament berth with a dominant 19-10 victory over High Point in the opening round just two days ago. Their reward for that victory? Just a date with defending national champion and the Tournament’s top overall seed, Maryland.
No one gave Denver a chance to even keep this game close. Maryland has been the best team in the country all year and Denver was just a lowly “bubble team.” The Terps never trailed but the Pios gave them all they could handle through the first half and into the second half. Eliza Radochonski scored twice while Laura Milleker and Quintin Hoch-Bullen both added a goal apiece. Denver pulled within 2 goals at 6-4 early in the second half before Maryland ended the game on a 9-0 run to finish off the Pios 15-4.
Denver’s season won’t be defined by this loss, though. The Pioneers showed that they belong in the conversation with the top 20 teams in the country. With a young core and top players like Radochonski and Kendra Lanuza returning, Denver’s future is very bright and they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in the BIG EAST next year.
It’s hard to have your season ended, even if it was at the hands of the best team in the country. There is no reason for the Pios to hang their heads though. They had an incredible season with a few different appearances in the top 20. This is an excellent foundation for the program going forward and things are only going to get better. The Crimson & Gold faithful should be proud of this squad and get excited about the future.