The #17th-ranked University of Denver women’s lacrosse team upset the #13th-ranked University of Southern California, 11-10 in a dramatic overtime finish in Ann Arbor, Mich. to advance to the second round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
“I’m really proud of our fight today,” said DU head coach Liza Kelly after the game. “This is what we’ve been preparing for all year, and I think we came out ready to fight for that [NCAA Second Round] spot on Sunday.”
The late-game drama in Ann Arbor on Friday night was simply incredible.
Indeed the Pioneers, who had played very well in building a commanding 8-4 second half lead over USC, watched in horror as their lead suddenly evaporated as the Trojans bore down and took over the game in the middle portion of the second half.
USC reeled-off six second-half goals as the women of Troy grabbed a 10-9 lead into the final minutes of regulation time. USC looked very poised to win and advance, and the Pioneers’ awesome season was slipping away fast under the Trojan momentum…
But the Pioneers were determined not to let USC hold on. Indeed, Georgetown had come back on the Pioneers to win the Big East final in Milwaukee, Wis. in overtime last week, and the Pios did not want their season to end on a similar bitter note on this Ann Arbor night.
This time, DU dug-in and had their hero cued and ready…
Sophomore attack Eliza Radochonski became the hero by the force of her dominant will in the final minutes of the game, putting the Pioneers’ whole season on her own proverbial back as she thundered into the offensive zone with about 4:40 left in regulation. Taking a dangerous pass from DU’s Julia Feiss 10 feet outside the USC net with two Trojan defenders draped in her face and making any shot on net almost impossible, Radochonski had other, more radical ideas. She suddenly turned away from the goal (and the USC defenders) and fired a trick shot backwards over her own shoulder and into the high corner of the USC net to tie the game, 10-10 in highlight-reel fashion. The Pioneers were so inspired by Radochonski’s goal that they held on for the rest of regulation time, forcing the game into overtime.
Then soon into the sudden-death extra frame, Radochonski moved into DU legend territory by striking again with the overtime-winner on a bouncing shot from 15 feet out just 1:30 into the OT, after a nice pass from DU’s Kendra Lanuza. The ball came to rest in the back of the USC net behind dejected Trojan netminder Riley Hertford as the DU players swarmed “Rado” in elated victory in a swirling pile of Crimson jerseys. TheTrojans fell stunned to the turf, their season over.
The Pioneers thus improved to 15-3 on the season and head to the second round for the fourth time in program history, and will have a chance to get revenge on the University of Michigan on Sunday at 10 am MT in a second round game. The Wolverines beat DU in Denver earlier this season in a game that the Pioneers will well remember.
Radochonski led the Pioneers with three goals in the USC contest, on top of earning her 100th career point.
Following Radochonski’s hat trick, Bea Behrins, Julia Feiss and Kendra Lanuza all posted two goals against the Trojans. Elizabeth Behrins and Quintin Hoch-Bullen tallied one apiece.
Radochonski and Lanuza led the team with five points each.
USC was led by Hope Anhut, Izzy McMahon and Kaeli Huff, who each had three-point efforts for the Trojans, who ended the season as Pac-12 Champions.
Maddie Baum won four draw controls for Denver, Laura Milleker earned a career-high three draws and Hayden Dean, Audrey Schreck and Hoch-Bullen each had one.
Eight Pioneers caused at least one turnover against USC, Katherine Fischer led the team with two in the contest.
Carson Gregg spent 51 minutes in the DU net and totaled six saves. Amelia Cole wrapped up the final nine minutes in net, including the two minutes of overtime, and had one save.
This marks as the fourth time (2013, 2014, 2018 and 2019) the Crimson and Gold will advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, winning the first round game in all four trips. Last season the Pioneers defeated High Point in the first round 19-10, but fell to Maryland 15-4 in the second round on May 13.
The Pioneers have never won an NCAA second round game, and beating Michigan would be the highest point in the history of the DU program.