Denver exacts dominant revenge on Villanova, Pioneers advance to BIG EAST Title Game

Photo courtesy Denver Athletics

DENVER – It was the Denver Pioneers’ best, most dominant performance of the year and elated fans of the Crimson & Gold were left to wonder, “where the heck has this been all season?” Just less than a month after the Villanova Wildcats came to Denver and upset the Pioneers in a 12-11 thriller, the Pioneers returned the favor and then some in a 17-11 victory in the BIG EAST Semifinals at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. After giving up the first goal, the Pioneers turned it on and poured it on jumping to a 12-3 halftime lead before cruising to the six-goal victory.

It’s hard to beat a team twice in a season. It’s even harder to beat a team like Denver, a team coached by the greatest of all time and known for his adjustments, twice in a season. A month ago, Denver was shooting at a brick wall named Will Vitton who made 19 saves on 30 Pioneer shots on goal. Tonight, the Pioneers flipped the script and scored 17 times on 23 shots on goal while forcing Vitton to change his eye level time and time again. Where shots were finding Vitton’s stick four weeks ago, tonight, they found twine and the Wildcats couldn’t solve for Denver’s attack.

Not only did the Pioneers get a huge lift from its offensive effort, its defense and goaltender Cole French kept the Wildcats at bay. Denver forced three Villanova shot clock violations and Cole French made six key saves spread across all four quarters. It was an inspired performance all across the field was the kind of performance that Denver, a team that struggled to find its rhythm throughout the regular season, desperately needed as the postseason gets underway. It’s the kind of performance DU can really build upon going forward.

The Pioneers did have to withstand a second-half push from the Wildcats but with a nine-goal lead at halftime, there was really never any doubt about who would come away with this victory. That’s a sentence that hasn’t been written at all this year. Maybe the Pioneers exorcized some demons and emphasized the revenge factor against the Wildcats. Or maybe DU found the rhythm that was lacking for the first three months of the season. Whatever it was, with May Madness getting underway, this is exactly how the Pioneers wanted and needed to start the postseason.

Denver will get its first chance to build on tonight’s momentum against the Georgetown Hoyas on Saturday afternoon at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium with a Big East title and an auto-bid into the NCAA Tournament on the line.

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