Photo by: Andrew Fielding
The University of Denver men’s lacrosse team is heading to Baltimore.
The Pioneers beat nine-time national champion Johns Hopkins 14-9 to advance to their first NCAA semifinal next weekend in Baltimore, where they will take on No. 7-seeded Virginia (11-5).
The dream season continues for Denver (15-2), following an incredible performance Saturday afternoon in Hempstead, N.Y., where the Pioneers out-dueled the Blue Jays on both the offensive and defensive side of the field to gain a spot into the Final Four.
“It’s hard to put it into words right now,” said head coach Bill Tierney seconds after the historic win. “We will only have a few minutes to celebrate this win as we have a big game next weekend.”
The Pioneers used runs in both the second and third quarter to propel themselves to victory, scoring five unanswered in the first half and then scoring three goals at the end of the third to go up 11-7. Denver added two more in the fourth quarter goals to compete a six-goal run to complete its unprecedented run to the national semifinals.
Denver is the first lacrosse program west of the Mississippi to advance to the Final Four.
In the biggest game in program history, Denver jumped out to an early 6-1 lead and never looked back as senior Todd Baxter, sophomore Cameron Flint and freshman Jeremy Noble led the Pioneers in the first and second half, respectively.
Baxter, Denver’s captain, started for the Pioneers, following two weeks of being sidelined from an ankle and knee injury. He scored three goals in the first half, leading the Denver attack unit in points as Johns Hopkins decided to focus on the team’s top two scorers—juniors Mark Matthews and Alex Demopoulous.
Baxter walked off the field with a limp in the third quarter, and his status next week is uncertain.
Baxter’s first goal came with 9:09 in the first quarter when he scored off a rebounded shot to put DU up 2-1, a lead they never relinquished.
JHU got as close as 8-7 in the third quarter; however, Denver scored four straight goals to go up 13-7 in the fourth quarter before finishing the game with a Noble goal.
The Pioneers led 7-3 after the first half, scoring five unanswered goals after JHU’s Rob Guida scored past Faus a minute and six seconds into the game.
Flint led Denver early on with three goals in the first half, striking a goal in the first quarter and then charging freely down the middle of the field to score his second goal only 23 seconds into the second quarter.
Denver jumped out to a five-goal lead, 6-1, when Baxter scored his second goal off of a great offensive possession, which included several passes, including Demopolous’ assist.
Hopkins rallied with two goals to make it 6-3, but Flint completed his first-half hat trick when he scored past sophomore Pierce Basset to make it 7-3 going into the half.
Freshman goalie Jamie Faus made eight saves for Denver, limiting a high-octane Hopkins offense, which averages over 11 goals, to nine goals.
Also, the Pioneers were able to score 14 goals on a JHU defense that averages less than seven goals a game. Nine Pioneers scored, including freshman Paul Danko and junior Henry Miketa, who had limited roles during the regular season.
Next weekend, the Pioneers will take on three-time national champion Virginia in the national semifinal at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium. The game will either be at 2 p.m. MT or 4:30 p.m. MT next Saturday. If they win, the Pioneers will play in the National Championship at 1:30 p.m. MT on Monday, May 30. The semifinals can be seen on ESPN 2 and ESPN3.com, while the championship game can be seen on ESPN.