#2 seed [#9] Denver men’s lacrosse (10-4, 5-1) traveled back to Milwaukee to face #3 seed Villanova at Valley Fields Thursday night. Denver soundly defeated the Wildcats, 16-9. Denver is playing their best lacrosse at the best time in earning their sixth consecutive win. With the win, Denver may have ensured their place in the NCAA Tournament, depending on the outcome of other conference tournament games. Earlier in the day, #1 seed Georgetown pounded Providence 19-8. A win Saturday in the BIG EAST Tournament final would remove all doubt about post-season play if Denver can defeat Georgetown for the conference auto bid.
Denver played outstanding first-half defense, beating the Wildcats to groundballs (14-8) while forcing four turnovers. Villanova struggled to find good shots against an efficient and aggressive Pioneer defense and Denver took advantage of scoring opportunities (11 SOG/7 goals) to hold a 7-3 lead at halftime.
Denver gave up the first goal in the first quarter to the Wildcats’ Austin Frasier. Denver retaliated with a pair of goals, separated by less than a minute by Noah Manning and Michael Lampert to gain a 2-1 advantage. A minute and a half later, Lampert scored again for the Pioneers. JJ Sillstrop capped the Pioneer scoring spree for the period at 3:38 for a 4-1 lead.
Denver’s Richie Connell got a feed from Lampert and dunked on the Wildcat goalkeeper Will Vitton, 5-1, to open the second quarter. Less than two minutes later, Manning fed Richie Connell in traffic and he bounced in a goal, 6-1. Tyler Boes ended the Wildcats’ 20-minute scoring drought at 7:17, 6-2. After a long Denver possession, Mic Kelly found paydirt for the Pioneers, 7-2. with 2:22 remaining. Matt Campbell quickly countered for the Wildcats with a goal to pull within four, 7-3 at the halftime break.
The second half was solid for Denver, despite defensive breakdowns at the end of the third quarter and the beginning of the fourth quarter. However, DU found its footing and scored big goals down the stretch.
Denver came out on fire to start the second half. Alec Stathakis won the opening faceoff and scored to stun Nova 8-3. A minute later Noah Manning scored to build a 9-3 lead. JJ Sillstrop made it three in a row, 10-3, with 11:07 left in the third quarter. Manning made it a hat trick with a goal at 5:37, 11-3. Matt Lucate finally scored for the Wildcats but thirty seconds later, DU’s Stephen Avery returned the favor, 12-4. Villanova finished the quarter with two goals in the final 1:20 to pull within six points, 12-6.
The Pioneers are simply imposing their will tonight 💪😤 @DU_MLAX
(via CBSSN) pic.twitter.com/nqwZvg0w6h
— TLN 🥍 (@LacrosseNetwork) May 5, 2023
The Wildcat momentum carried over and the Wildcats scored two goals, one with Denver shorthanded, to open the final quarter, 12-8. A Sillstrop rifle shot from the top of the key, a hat trick, stopped the bleeding, 13-8. A Joshua Carlson goal from the left flank at 6:38 gave DU some breathing room and a 6-goal lead, 14-8. Villanova scored at 4:23 but JJ Silstrop got an insurance goal for Denver a minute and a half later, 15-9. Lampert put the cherry on top with a goal and a hat trick with the final score of 16-9.
Following the game, DU head Coach Bill Tierney said, “Our guys played loose. The guys believed in each other. We are proud to get out of here (with the win). Our guys played with composure for most of the game. We were getting tired.” Tierney felt fairly confident the win ensured an NCAA bid but warned, “There are a lot of bracket busters out there.”
The BIG EAST final will be held Saturday at Valley Fields in Milwaukee at 2:30 pm MT.