Pioneers Clinch 2-Seed in BIG EAST Tournament with Dominant Victory Over Marquette

The #19 Denver Pioneers men’s lacrosse team (9-5, 4-1 BIG EAST) won’t win the regular-season conference title like many Pioneer fans have become accustomed to over the past decade but thanks to a dominant stretch of lacrosse that saw Denver finish the season on a three-game winning streak, they finished 2nd in the conference behind Georgetown, the only conference team that beat the Pios. In front of the second-largest crowd in Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium history (2,969), the Pioneers clinched the 2-seed with a dominating victory over the Marquette Golden Eagles (4-10, 2-3) to close out the regular season and enter the postseason on a high note.

Midfielder Jack Hannah and attack Alex Simmons led the way for the Pioneers with three goals each. Hannah’s hat-trick goal, which came in the 4th quarter to help stave off a Marquette rally, was his 100th career goal in his 55th game – the fastest in program history for a midfielder – wearing crimson and gold. Attack Richie Connell, Johnny Marrocco, and midfielder Ted Sullivan each chipped in two more apiece to round out the Pios’ multi-goal scorers and give the Pioneers a huge leg up on the Golden Eagles.

“We just played Pioneer lacrosse,” Hannah told Altitude TV about DU’s victory. “We shared the ball, swinging from each side of the field. We just did our thing, played offense the way we practiced it and everything kind of came together and we shot the ball well.”

As effective as the Pios’ attack was through the first three quarters, entering the final frame with a 12-3 lead, it could have been a much bigger lead if not for the play of Marquette goalie Michael Allieri who made 13 saves on 29 DU shots, including some huge saves in the second half and fourth quarter specifically to keep the Golden Eagles within a kind of striking distance.

The Pioneers led the game for all but the opening few minutes after surrendering the opening goal and went on an astounding 10-2 run to close out the first half. Offensively, the Pioneers were clicking on all cylinders from the get-go and defensively, save for a stretch of the fourth quarter where Marquette drew back to within 6 at one point, Denver was stingy and stifled the Golden Eagle attack at every turn.

As well as Denver played all evening in the midst of a cold, windy night in the Mile High City, it was a full-blown disaster for Marquette, even with their fourth-quarter push to make the score a bit more respectable. The visitors turned the ball over 16 different times, only eight of which were caused by Denver. Contrast that with the Pios who turned it over 10 times, six of which were caused by Marquette’s defense. Missed passes, miscommunication, and all-around miscues throughout the contest by the Golden Eagles opened the door wide open for the Pioneers to shoot them down by doubling them up.

For the Pioneers, though, this is the third straight victory in which they scored in double digits while holding their opponents to single-digit scoring. They started this run of excellent play against St. John’s two weeks ago with an 18-4 drubbing of the Red Storm and followed that up with a 16-3 performance against Providence before tonight’s 16-8 effort. Now, all three of those games came against the bottom three teams in the conference, but there is always something to be said for taking care of business against teams that you should easily handle.

“It was absolutely awesome,” Hannah said of playing his final college lacrosse game in front of the second-largest crowd in Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium history. “Couldn’t have asked for a better crowd coming out here at Peter Barton under the lights like this on a Friday night. It was an awesome way to go out, couldn’t be more excited. We’re ready to roll in the BIG EAST Tournament.”

Now, the focus turns to the postseason which begins next weekend. The Pioneers’ hopes to make their second-straight NCAA Tournament lie solely with winning the BIG EAST Tournament in Washington, DC next weekend. At 9-5, DU’s chances of making the 18-team national tournament field with an at-large bid are extremely low so they must win two games in the nation’s capital next weekend to extend their season with the BIG EAST’s automatic qualifying bid.

“It’s win or go home now,” Hannah added. “That’s our thought process but nothing is really going to change [in] our mindset. We need to keep getting better, keep doing our thing and keep practicing all week, keep chipping away and playing Pioneer lacrosse together and have the same energy that we had tonight. Hopefully, things go our way. We’re going to do everything in our power to make them go our way.”

On this night, though, even despite the cold and wind, Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium felt a lot like the glory days of the mid-2010s when the Pioneers were regularly dominating opponents in front of overflowing sold-out crowds. It was a sight to behold and, hopefully, a hint at what’s to come in the coming years. This 16-8 victory over Marquette was not just an excellent tuneup for the most important weekend of the season, it was a welcome reminder of what DU Men’s Lacrosse aspires to and can be. For a few hours on a cold Denver Friday night, the Pioneers were back on top of the world. Now, it’s time to stay there.


Top photo: Jamie Schwaberow/Clarkson Creative Photography via Denver Athletics

One thought on “Pioneers Clinch 2-Seed in BIG EAST Tournament with Dominant Victory Over Marquette”

  1. Well, this year’s DU team is now officially in do-or-die mode. The Pios are deeper and better than Villanova, and should win that game by a few goals, but only if they play to capabilities. Villanova plays a crazy, free-form offense that can be confounding, but DU handled the Wildcats at Villanova a few weeks ago, and should be able to do it again. Game is at Georgetown’s Cooper Field in Washington, DC at 3:30 PM MT on Thursday on CBS Sports Network.

    Georgetown is a top 3 team that totally blasted Denver in Barton this year. The Hoyas have now clearly overtaken DU as the best program in the Big East and they have played on a whole different level this year from everyone else in the conference…They should have no issues handling Marquette on home turf to make the league final.

    For DU to beat Georgetown in the final, at Georgetown, would be a seismic upset – DU would be a big underdog would have to play its best game and the Hoyas would need to make a bunch of mistakes on its home field. This is not impossible, but would be really difficult. I’d give DU perhaps a 20-25% chance of winning, max…Final is on Saturday at 2:30 MT on CBS Sports Network .Go Pios!

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