Pioneers’ rally falls short as Denver falls to Duke 15-13 in home opener

DENVER – It’s not usually a good thing when your opponent outscores you 7-2 in the opening quarter of a lacrosse game. It puts you in a tough spot, forcing you to abandon your gameplan early in the game just to weather the storm that you’re in. This is exactly what happened to the #8 Denver Pioneers (1-1) against the #11 Duke Blue Devils (2-1) at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium in the Pios’ 2020 home opener. The 7-2 deficit at the end of the opening quarter was too much for the Pioneers to overcome as they eventually fell 15-13.

The Pioneers outscored the Blue Devils 11-8 over the final 45 minutes of lacrosse and, at times, played incredible, shutdown defense against one of the best teams in the country. They didn’t let the early five-goal deficit derail their efforts and, in the second half especially, they not only played with Duke, they really outplayed the Blue Devils. The only problem was, Denver’s empty possessions and inconsistencies at the face-off X kept them from pulling off the miracle comeback.

Jack Hannah led the way for the Pios with seven points on six goals and an assist followed by a five-point effort from Ethan Walker on two goals and three assists. Had freshman FOGO Alec Stathakis been able to replicate his 16-of-21 performance against Air Force last weekend, it’s entirely likely that combined with Hannah’s and Walker’s performances, the Pioneers are walking out of Peter Barton with a huge home-opening win. Instead, Duke’s own Jordan Ginder pulled out his best Trevor Baptiste impression and went 18-for-28 at the X while Stathakis and sophomore Brett Boos combined to go 13-for-31. That wasn’t all on the two faceoff specialists, though, as Denver struggled to win ground balls off of the faceoff.

Denver was able to close the gap to three goals midway through the fourth quarter thanks to a three-goal run to open the final quarter of play but Duke was able to respond every time and keep the Pioneers at bay. Between empty possessions and an inconsistent performance at the X, it was a mostly rough day for the Pioneers.

In the end, though, for a young team with a new defensive coordinator, it’s hard to look at this loss as anything other than a great learning opportunity and source of experience for the Pioneers. They got off to a rough start but they battled and never let the game get away from them from the second quarter on. If nothing else, Denver’s main takeaway is that they can and did play with the Blue Devils and even outplayed them for some stretches of the game. No loss is good, but Denver will be able to take something positive from this game and that’s important.


Postgame Comments

Top photo credit: Jason Evans

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