A decade ago, Bill Tierney left a comfortable dynasty and headed west to establish a western lacrosse presence in Denver with two objectives; to create a western lacrosse mecca capable of regularly contending for a national title and to continue advancing the growth of the sport. Nine-consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, five Final Fours and one national championship later, Coach Tierney and the Pioneers have established themselves for the long run as the Lacrosse Capital of the West. While Tierney and Denver aim to again hoist the national championship title trophy this Spring, the 66-year old lacrosse maven continues his tandem goal of growing the sport. Continue reading Bill Tierney still “finding a way” to Pioneer lacrosse out west→
It’s hard to imagine that just the second game of the season could present any long-term implications, but men’s lacrosse is unique in that particular way. With a regular season slate of just 13 to 15 games, the top ten clash between the #5 Denver Pioneers and the #8 Duke Blue Devils this Saturday is a taste of May competition in February. The result and individual performances become a baseline for later reflection. Continue reading Denver vs Duke: February Foreshadowing→
DENVER – From the opening faceoff to the final buzzer, the #8 Denver Pioneers’ highly-touted freshman class showed the lacrosse world why the Pios are going to be a force to be reckoned with in a dominant 11-4 victory over in-state rival Air Force. Freshmen Ellis Geis and FOGO Brett Boos were the stars of the Pioneers’ show this afternoon against the Falcons. Geis tallied a hat trick while Boos went 15/19 at the X in their respective collegiate debuts at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.
For a team with two very large question marks looming over their heads in how will Denver replace the greatest faceoff specialist in the history of the sport and how will the Pioneers adjust to the new 80-second shot clock, this was about as great a start to the 2019 season as Denver could have asked for. It was by no means perfect as the Pios turned the ball over 15 times and struggled to clear in the second half but overall, Denver played the way they expected to and may have exceeded some expectations in some key areas. Continue reading Freshmen steal show in Pioneers’ dominant season opening win over Air Force→
The growth of lacrosse out west has cultivated a unique rivalry between the No. 8 Denver Pioneers and Air Force Falcons. Separated by an hour-bus ride, Colorado’s only Division l men’s programs have embraced a matchup that has seen everything from blizzardous conditions, NCAA tournament action, to one-goal games. It’s only fitting that both teams open their respective 2019 campaigns with an in-state showdown. Continue reading Colorado’s finest: Denver & Air Force set to open 2019 season at Peter Barton→
One decade ago, Bill Tierney left the dynasty of a lacrosse program he had established at Princeton University to take over the helm for the University of Denver Pioneers. Among his ambitions of growing the sport, he was determined to create a powerhouse program out west.
Now, four years removed from Denver’s sole national title , the Pioneers enter this season eager for their second ring. But after missing Championship Weekend last season at the hands of Albany in an epic 15-13 battle, the general consensus was that the Pioneers would enter this season with a vengeful mentality.
“In one way I kind of go, ‘Whoa, was it that bad?’ But in another, I kind of smile,” Tierney said. “When your program is expected to be in Final Fours and they don’t, it’s looked upon as not a great season. I get that, that’s what I want. We’re all in with that. We use that as motivation.’
“The good thing about losing is it makes you want to win a lot more.”
And do they ever. The 2018 class were the final members of that 2015 title squad. The current 14-man senior class has endured their entire careers in pursuit of that second title. The 14 true seniors look to lead the fresh faces of a 19-man freshmen class back to Championship Weekend come May.
“Usually a strong senior class and a large freshmen class is a good combination,” coach Tierney said. “As long as you can get the freshmen that will crack the lineup to contribute.”
Denver returns veteran leadership across the field but is exceptionally evident within its defensive core. The Pioneers defense will field seniors Alex Ready in goal and defensemen Dylan Gaines, Dylan Johnson and junior Colin Squires.
“It’s huge,” defensive coordinator John Orsen said. “They have a lot of experience. They’ve been through every single lacrosse situation that you could possibly imagine. There’s not a scenario that they haven’t seen and that’s really important for the development of the whole team.”
Ready will receive the starting nod, but the jury remains out. Behind the senior netminder are four viable candidates among; Josh Matte, Tristan Wright, Cole French, and Kaleb Stroman.
“The beauty for him and I think the beauty for us that coincides is, that he’s got four guys pushing him and I mean really pushing him,” coach Tierney said. “We’re really comfortable with any one of the five of them. I think we owe it to Alex and I think he’ll respond with it being his senior year. He’s won a lot of great lacrosse games for us. We’ll give him the shot to win us some more.”
A Terp in the mix
The Pioneers gained a vital addition at the long pole position in Maryland transfer Matt Neufeldt which was vacated by 2018 graduate Sean Mayle. Neufeldt opted to use his final year of eligibility with DU after being named an All-American and winning a national title (2017) with the Terps.
“Neufeldt brings us another guy who has an amazing lacrosse savvy and IQ,” Tierney said. “We’re not going to try and change Matt into being a Denver Pioneer through-and-through. He’s got three months left, you know? But what we are going to do is use the things he brings to us. Knowing that Denver’s defense and Maryland’s defense aren’t that far off from each other. Knowing that he’s played in big games. We’ll try to indoctrinate him as best we can to how we play but also let the reins loose a bit with him.”
Tierney challenged Neufeldt to collect 50 ground balls this season, a feat that the Naperville, Illinois native already surpassed in each of his three prior seasons at Maryland. The significance of that challenge?
The X without Trevor Baptiste
The era of No. 9 dominating the faceoff for the Crimson and Gold is over. While Denver will likely rely on freshmen Brett Boos and Jackson Harvey to manage the X, the Pioneers are confident in their wing play. Hence the proposition for Neufeldt to pick up at least 50 ground balls.
“I have a sense that we’re actually a lot better than we thought we were,” coach Tierney said. I have a good feeling. I think Boos is going to surprise some people early on.”
Denver’s high-powered offense will feature new faces but maintain a consistent core. The Pioneers return quintessential playmakers in Ethan Walker and Austin French at attack and potent midfield threats in Colton Jackson and Teddy Sullivan. Walker is coming off of a 70-point campaign where he was just shy of 50 goals (48). Jackson enters his final season healthy and looking to build off of his 22-goal junior year.
“I like where we’re at,” offensive coordinator Matt Brown said. “We’re more mature as a group this year. I think the veteran piece of it is going to play a big part in our success.”
Junior captain Danny Logan has a dutiful, heavier weight on his shoulders this season. As a sophomore, the midfielder elevated his game to include an ambidextrous shot which he perfected during the offseason. The Pioneers relied heavily on Logan as a defensive middie and on the wing play and will continue to this year.
“I wish we had five of him,” coach Brown said. “He’s really our heartbeat this year. He’s a do-it-all, utility-knife type of guy. If you look at last year, we had him on the first line midfield to start the year. Then, we felt like we needed a little more on the defensive presence so we bump him down and he becomes the best d-middy in the country. We look at this year, he can do whatever you ask him to do. He can play on the wings. He can play on the first line. He could be a 20-goal scorer this year. He could be the best d-middie in the country. Heck, he could take faceoffs for you. He’s as tough as they come and he’s a fantastic leader.”
On the Lookout
Quinn McKone – the senior played cemented the Pioneers second midfield line last season and played crucial minutes. McKone provides consistency and will be assuming a much-earned leadership role with his steady presence.
Brett Greenlee– While the senior LSM has limited game experience, Greenlee is versatile in his ability to play up or down. Coach Orsen noted he’s a player they’re expecting to distribute big minutes to.
Jack Hannah – the sophomore midfielder spent the summer playing in coach Brown’s summer box lacrosse league in Ohio. Hannah impressed the coaching staff with his physical and technical development during the offseason as he looks to have a breakout year.
The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel implemented three changes that will take effect this season.
80-second shot clock
An 80-second shot clock which forces players to cross the midfield line in 20-seconds. The offensive team will then have 60-seconds to make a play on the net before possession is turned over.
The Panel approved plays around the crease, but the definition has drawn some question marks.
“We haven’t used the word in our practices yet,” Tierney said. “We haven’t even talked about it. The risk versus the reward is something we haven’t quite figured out yet. The wording is so vague. It’ll be interesting to see how it’s implemented once we get some games going.”
Tierney explained that a better understanding of how the dive will be officiated once games are underway will determine their approach. He suspects the dive will be used more as a final effort to a winding shot clock.
Reduced Substitution Box
“That’s been a huge awakening for us,” Tierney said. “Now it’s harder to cut off fast breaks. You used to be able to just run an attackman off 10-yards down from the midline on one side and then run a pole on the other side 10-yards down from the midline. You had 20-yards to cut off a break. Now, it’s down to 10-yards.”
Even after nearly 40-years of coaching experience, last season provided coach Tierney with valuable insight and lessons. With the sport continually growing and changing, Tierney and his staff are excited for the challenges and rewards in the coming season.
“Look, if you can’t learn in life then why live it?” coach Tierney said. “You can always learn. What’s great about coaching and sports is that is a really easy occupation to be humbled in.”
The recently released men’s lacrosse schedule (below) has some interesting takeaways.
Bill Tierney means it when he says he want to grow the game of lacrosse in the west. He has taken an RPI risk by scheduling a new program (Utah) and a relatively new program (Cleveland State). The Pioneers play Utah this season in the Utes’ first D1 lacrosse campaign. Utah lacrosse is almost certain to become a natural regional rival for Denver. Tierney has family connections to Cleveland as Vikings head coach Dylan Sheridan is married to his daughter Brianne. The Pios and Vikings will meet for a second straight year in Denver. However, there is no doubt that one of the major reasons he scheduled these contest was to grow the programs’ visibility in non-traditional areas.
26-0 in regular season in BIG EAST play? That is ridiculous. Sometimes it is easy to take winning streaks for granted but a conference winning streak this long over four seasons is an incredible accomplishment. The Pioneers, as usual, will have targets on their back every BIG EAST contest. This season will be no exception.
While not all of DU’s teams have announced their 2018-2019 schedules yet, we know just enough to start planning potential road trips to see our beloved Pioneers play in some of America’s most iconic destinations. If you’ve never travelled to see the Pioneers play, you are missing out on some amazing experiences. There is a special “us against the world” feeling that comes from watching DU on the road as Pio fan, and when the team gets a road win, it can feel even more special than a home win, because the team just needs you more on the road. Here are some possibilities to help get you started, with DU men’shockey, basketball, soccer and lacrosse road trips, in alphabetical order by area:
The NCAA Lacrosse Rules Committee is going to introduce a 60 second shot clock for men’s collegiate lacrosse with an additional 20 seconds to get the ball into the offensive half. A LetsGoDU article covered the topic last season but this issue has been raging for a long time.
The mechanics? Twenty seconds to clear to midfield, then a 60-second shot clock, according to sources to multiple Inside Lacrosse reporters. Paul Rabil first tweeted this would be the form of shot clock for men’s lacrosse. The change will be effective for the upcoming 2019 season.
The NCAA Rules Committee for several rules cycles has been inching toward a shot clock for men's lacrosse https://t.co/POMdnN6vnh
Teams that already employ a free-lance style of lacrosse, such as Albany, would appear to have an advantage. However, Denver recruits and encourages their players to participate in box lacrosse. And, the sport utilizes a shot clock. These players are used to working in traffic and getting off shots in tight quarters. On the other hand, the around-the-horn perimeter passing employed by Denver to initiate their offense will need to be shortened and additional work will be required on their interior offense. Also, from a recruiting perspective, athletic and skilled one-on-one creative offensive players will be in high demand as offenses will require players that can break down defenses when the shot clock is running down.
Fans on both sides of the issue have made compelling arguments. However, the demand for a shot clock was overwhelming.
So explain why almost EVERY post I see during college lax season from MLL pros are posts begging for a shot clock? Those guys played college ball. They love the shot clock.
When it was recently announced that Denver Pioneers lacrosse would return to Southern California to showcase one of college lacrosse’s best rivalries next season in the Sixth Annual Pacific Coast Shootout, there was some local disappointment that the duel would not resume at Peter Barton Stadium in Denver. However, both Denver and Notre Dame are taking a smart, strategic approach by scheduling their next contest in SoCal.
Notre Dame has over 7,000 California alumni while Denver boasts 8,800 alumni based in the Golden State, most of whom are located in Southen California. The matchup will offer an ideal opportunity to draw local alumni to the game. However, there is even more to this match. With a burgeoning lacrosse culture in California, this is fertile recruiting ground for both the Fighting Irish and the Pioneers. The California Interscholastic Federation reports growth in participation in overall high school athletics with lacrosse showing the largest percentage increase of any sport, a combined 7.40% or 1,245 new participants in the past year.
With both schools turning into non-east coast perennial powers, there is plenty of future lacrosse talent being developed out west for both squads. While only one girl and four boys were invited from California to the 2018 Under Armour All-America lacrosse games, the West Coast is likely to become a solid source of future stars for college lacrosse. And Denver and Notre Dame are well positioned to capitalize on that growth.
Denver and Notre Dame will square off on Saturday, March 9 at 7:00 PM (PST) at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, CA. This year’s appearance in the Shootout will mark Denver’s second and Notre Dame’s third time playing in Orange County. The Pioneers and Irish met in 2014 in the event’s inaugural game, where Denver beat Notre Dame 10-7. Notre Dame appeared again in the 2016 Shootout, beating Maryland 9-4.