The 17th-ranked Denver Pioneers (16-3) women’s lacrosse team made school history on May 12, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Mich., exacting a revenge upset on the #7th-ranked University of Michigan Wolverines (16-4) , 9-5 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. DU now advances to the NCAA Elite Eight for the first time in program history, and will play the top-ranked University of Maryland Terrapins on May 18 at 5pm MT for a trip to the NCAA final four.
Michigan had beaten Denver 12-10 at DU’s Barton Stadium earlier this season, and the Pioneers were in no mood to allow Michigan to win again.
Quintin Hoch-Bullen, a sophomore attacker from Orillia, Ontario, led the Crimson and Gold with a five-goal performance, firing in two goals in the first half and adding three more in the second half. Katherine Fischer held down the Denver defense, totaling four caused turnovers and limiting the Wolverines to just five goals in a ferocious defensive contest.
“This is a very special moment for our team,” said DU head coach Liza Kelly. “To be able to advance to the quarterfinals, with this group of girls, is such an unbelievable experience. They have worked so hard all season long, and I’m excited to see what comes next in our journey.”
The defense was in full force all game, with 14 Pioneers tallying at least one ground ball, and three contributing to Denver’s nine draw controls. Senior Audrey Schreck totaled five draws and Fischer accumulated four ground balls to lead the Crimson and Gold.
DU’s standout goalie, Carson Gregg spent all 60 minute in net, totaling six saves for the win.
The Crimson and Gold dominated Michigan in most statistical categories, accumulating 29 shots, 23 ground balls, nine draws, six saves and going a perfect 19-19 on clears. The Wolverines posted 19 shots, 12 ground balls, seven draws, 11 saves and went 20-22 on clears.
A scoreless first 18 minutes was broken by Hoch-Bullen with 12:12 remaining the in first half. Bea Behrins followed four minutes later to put the Pioneers at a 2-0 lead, but Michigan scored its first of the game less than a minute later. Hoch-Bullen closed out the half with a goal on the free position, putting the Pioneers up 3-1 heading into halftime, the lowest scoring half this season for DU.
Hoch-Bullen was once again the first to score in the second half, bringing Denver to a 4-1 lead with 25 minutes remaining in the game. Radochonski followed suit with her first goal of the game at the 23-minute mark. Ten minutes later Elizabeth Behrins scored her first with a shot to the top right shelf right past the Michigan goalie. Less than a minute later, the Wolverines responded, narrowing Denver’s lead to three at 6-3. Liddy scored her 15th goal of the season off a free position to increase the Crimson and Gold’s lead to four, followed by another goal from Hoch-Bullen. The Wolverines posted two more before the final whistle, but it wasn’t enough to make a comeback, leaving the Pioneers with a 9-5 victory.
The Pioneers will next travel to College Park, Maryland for yet another revenge showdown on May 18 with the top-ranked Maryland Terrapins, who crushed the Pioneers in last year’s NCAA tournament second round in College Park, 15-4. DU has never beaten Maryland in the three all-time games between the programs. If DU were to upset Maryland next week, it would be one of the greatest upsets in NCAA history. Maryland is 19-1 this season and is the best team in the country, destroying #15th ranked Stony Brook, 17-8 in its second round game on May 12.
The Terps are coached by Cathy Nelson Reese, who was DU’s head coach from 2004 to 2006, before becoming Maryland’s head coach in 2007, her alma mater. Reese has since won four NCAA titles at Maryland.
Some 10 current Pioneers and DU head coach Liza Kelly also hail from the Old Line State, marking a homecoming for them, as well as four more DU players from nearby Virginia and several more players and staffers also from the East Coast, making for a likely good visiting crowd of DU parents and friends in Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium next week.
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.
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.
You can say many things about the just bumped up to #44 University of Denver women’s tennis team. The team and coaches are very friendly and appreciative of fan support, they work hard and take winter break off to sharpen their game, and they never knock each other down.
But this week another characteristic emerged: edge.
“I think everyone’s really pumped to play Kansas tomorrow,” senior co-captain Bianca Mok said. “I think we’re all ready to get revenge on them for last year.”
The edge really hit a crescendo Monday when the draw was announced for the NCAA tournament. While DU (17-5, 5-0) is relishing the chance to get some payback against the team that knocked them out last year – they also want to know: “where’s the respect?”
DU is the lowly #4 seed in the Lawrence, KS region (the top 16 teams in the national rankings are first and second round hosts). DU, that beat Power Five schools Oregon, Utah, Colorado, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (and took down the dangerous Georgia State in Orlando in humid conditions that much more favored GSU).
To put it in perspective, Alabama State, LIU Brooklyn and North Florida are other #4 seeds in the 64-team tournament. Winthrop is seeded higher than DU and they have zilch in the way of Power Five wins but plenty of crushing defeats against the likes of Longwood and South Carolina-Upstate.
Women hope to equal men’s team’s 2013 historic achievement
No regional #4 seed has ever knocked off a #1 in the women’s NCAA tournament.
And until 2013 no men’s team had either, until Florida was shocked in front of their home fans in Gainesville. The team that upset them: DU.
Alex Clinkenbeard clinched the match to give the Pios the 4-3 victory. “Playing loose, playing hard and ultimately playing for each other was key to winning,” he recalls.
Clinkenbeard, who this month will graduate from medical school at CU, sees a lot of what made his team special in this year’s women’s team: “The women certainly have the firepower to compete and win at this level as they’ve shown in the regular season.” He added: “I’m sure that if they leave it all out there, deeply believe they can win, and play for their teammates then they will make the Pioneer community proud.”
Mok: doubles point is crucial
Mok won’t be playing her last tennis match as a Pio Saturday if DU loses, as she’s already been selected for the singles tournament later this month in Florida. But it would be her last time playing with her close friend and co-captain Arisha Ladhani and other teammates she’s mentored and inspired.
“We need to go out firing and our focus needs to be sharp,” she says when asked what will be most important for the team when they step onto the courts at Rock Chalk Park. She adds winning that first doubles point is crucial to knocking the Jayhawks off their game.
From the fall season to the NCAA tournament courts in Lawrence, Mok says her team is ready to fight: “I think we’re all at our peak.”
Avengers: Endgame isn’t the only big sequel out at the moment.
The NCAA announced its selections Monday afternoon for the 64-team women’s tennis tournament. The #47 University of Denver women’s tennis team (17-5, 5-0) will play Kansas, the team that knocked them out 4-3 in the first round last year.
It was all Crimson and Gold on day one of the Summit League Championships, as the top-seeded Pioneer women’s tennis team took care of #4 South Dakota 4-0 in the semifinals, setting up a date in Saturday morning’s finals.
DU added yet another National Coach of the Year winner this past week. Head coach Melissa Kutcher-Rinehart was rewarded for her work with DU Gymnastics. Kutcher-Rinehart joins eight other Denver coaches who have won the award in their respective sports of hockey, swimming and diving, nordic and alpine skiing, soccer, and lacrosse.
Kutcher-Rinehart becomes the 9th @UofDenver coach to earn National Coach of the Year, joining Murray Armstrong(HKY/1960)-Jim Bain(S+D/78/85)-George Gwozdecky(HKY/05)-Andy LeRoy(Alpine/14)-Bill Tierney(MLAX/15)-Dave Stewart(Nordic/16)-Jamie Franks(MSOC/16)-Jim Montgomery(HKY/2017) https://t.co/YgNDl9joQH
DU women’s tennis has spent tons of time in practice learning to be one thing: aggressive. And they know that’s what they’ll have to be if they expect to take down three Power Five teams from the Pac-12 in the coming days.
“Stay inside the blue” is a phrase you hear a lot at practice. Redirect your shots quickly, don’t let your rival know what hit them.
“It’s moving forward on everything, returning and coming in, serving and volleying coming in,” head coach Christian Bass said, after the #42 Pioneers upset #39 Utah 4-0 at Denver Tennis Park to win their fifth-straight (and play their first match outdoors at DTP). “Were doing formations, one ball and coming in, so we’re putting pressure on our opponents, not giving them the first high ball to be able to do something with”
The Pios (13-3, 3-0) captured the doubles point and fought hard in singles to get the sweep over Utah (11-6, 2-3). Bass says she knew doubles was going to be a battle, calling Utah very solid at poaching (where one player intercepts a return shot meant for their teammate in order to catch their rivals off-guard)
“They hit some very big first serves, and they were able to do a lot on their service game, and I thought we did a pretty good job moving forward off of returns and limiting the poaching,” Bass said.
In singles sophomore Camille Verden-Anderson again won first, crushing Whitney Hekking 6-0, 6-1 in the #5 spot. Team co-captain and #92 nationally Bianca Mok then took down her friend and familiar opponent Brianna Chisholm 7-5, 6-1 in the #1 singles position.
Mok’s fellow captain Arisha Ladhani struggled early, going down 4-1 at one point before regaining her composure to win the set 7-5 (that match was abandoned after claimed the fourth point). “When I was down 5-2, I was like I’m just going to go back to the basics, focus on my strengths, once I got that [set] to go 5-3 I was like let’s take this all the way,” she said after DU wrapped things up.
Utah was just the first step in a tough week for the team. They’ll travel to play the University of Arizona in Tucson Saturday before heading up the freeway to Phoenix Sunday to take on #44 Arizona State.