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.”
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.