May 21, 2011

Pioneers Forge Forward to First Final Four

by Chris R. Vaccaro | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay | Live Blog/Chat Center

"We believe we can do it," Denver midfielder Cameron Flint said after his three-goal performance Saturday in the Pioneers' 14-9 win over Johns Hopkins in the NCAA quarterfinals, "and when people don't, it's strictly motivation to prove them wrong."

© Greg Shemitz

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Denver lacrosse continues to make history. After advancing to its first NCAA quarterfinal, the sixth-seeded Pioneers upset third-seeded Johns Hopkins, 14-9, at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium before a record crowd of 13,447 and will play in the semifinals next week for the first time.

The Pioneers will play seventh-seeded Virginia, which beat second-seeded Cornell earlier in the day at Hofstra, in Baltimore on Friday.

Denver (15-2) led, 7-3, after the first half, and Hopkins (14-3) made it interesting by coming within one goal, making it 8-7 at the 7:16 mark of the third quarter. That was it, though, for the Blue Jays. Denver, on a program-record 12-game win streak, scored five unanswered goals over the next 13 minutes and put the game away with similar tactics used to open the contest.

"You can't come back like that," said Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala. "We spent so much energy coming back, then they get one or two, and you have to fight back again. It was a good year that ended on a bad note."

Denver had five different goal scorers -- Todd Baxter, Henry Miketa, Eric Law, Jeremy Noble and Andrew Lay -- who tacked on points from the 4:47 mark of the third quarter to the 10:12 mark of the fourth.

Prior to that flurry of goals, Hopkins had a brief run of its own, getting goals from Marshall Burkhart, Chris Boland and Phil Castronova.

For Denver coach Bill Tierney, his latest return to Long Island is packed with significant story lines. The win is just the second NCAA Division I lacrosse tournament victory to come from a school west of the Mississippi, and it came on his native island. The final game he coached at Princeton was also at Hofstra, against Cornell in the NCAA quarterfinals.

"For some reason today was our day," said Tierney, who coached high school lacrosse on the island at nearby Great Neck South and Levittown. "The players kept playing hard; they kept battling. They made believers out of me, that's for sure. It's pretty overwhelming. The only ones who don't seem to get overwhelmed are the 44 guys I coach."

Todd Baxter, who scored three goals for Denver, played with a partially torn MCL and badly sprained ankle. He told Tierney nothing would stop him from playing.

"You talk about guts and performance," Tierney said. "He meant so much for our team today."

Pietramala said his team came into the game not completely understanding who Denver was.

"I don't think our team gave them the level of respect that they deserved," he said. "That's a shame, because we allowed an opportunity to slip by us. They were better than us today and deserve to be moving on to the final four."

The Pioneers are fine playing the underdog role.

"We believe we can do it, and when people don't, it's strictly motivation to prove them wrong," said Cameron Flint, who scored three goals for Denver.

News and Notes

Tierney on playing at Hofstra: "It was a great atmosphere. The people at Hofstra are unbelievable. It's a great experience for our guys to know this is what it's all about. They set the bar very high..." Tierney recruited Hopkins coach Dave Pietramala to play for the Blue Jays when he was an assistant there... Kyle Wharton led Hopkins with three goals, followed by Chris Boland, who had two... Hopkins took more shots (36-29), picked up more ground balls (31-29), won more faceoffs (16-11) and were perfect on clears (11-for-11), but it wasn't enough.


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