Stars Align as Denver Upsets No. 4 Duke
DENVER - Sometimes in college sports, all the stars seem to align at just the right time for a team. Fortunately for Denver, they did tonight as the No. 16 Pioneers upset No. 4 Duke 15-9 in the Mile High Classic at Sports Authority Field.
“To be honest with you, I wasn’t sure we’d be
coming into [the press conference] with a 15-9 win over Duke, so
I’m just really proud of our kids,” said Denver head
coach Bill Tierney. “They just fought tonight.”
The win for Denver improves its record to 8-5 overall, keeping its hope of an NCAA tournament at-large bid alive. (The Pioneers can also win the ECAC's automatic qualifier when it hosts the conference tournament next week.) It also gave Denver a second victory in seven tries over ranked opponents. Penn State is the only other ranked team the Pioneers have beaten.
“I thought all of Denver played extremely hard,” said Duke head coach John Danowski. “They were desperate, this was an important game for them. They were going to play hard, and we just didn’t have an answer for that tonight."
Freshman goalie Ryan LaPlante reacts Friday after closing out Denver's 14-9 upset of Duke with 16 saves in the Mile High Classic at .
© Trevor Brown
Denver will face No. 1 ranked Loyola on Wednesday in the first
round of the ECAC Tournament hosted in Denver.
“I think this game was huge for us, and we knew that,” said junior midfielder Chase Carraro. “With the short turn-around, we needed to win this game. Coming into Loyola with another loss just would have been tough on us and our egos. Winning this game will definitely give us some confidence going into taking on the number one team in the country.”
Whitman’s Sampler Player of the Game freshman goalie Ryan LaPlante posted an incredible performance for the Pioneers, recording 16 saves against the Duke offense. LaPlante walked into the press conference with a chain around his neck, a Denver tradition signifying no weak link on the team, and certainly held up to that standard in tonight’s game.
“A lot of goalies, and I think Ryan’s the same, if they get the first save, they feel pretty good,” said Tierney. “Ryan’s a different dude, nothing bothers this kid. He was seeing the ball well, the way he clears the ball is just fantastic. He’s a pretty cool customer and he’s a joy to have around. That’s the kind of guy that you want around.”
Also performing well for Denver tonight were attackmen senior Mark Matthews with five goals and two assists, junior Eric Law with three goals and two assists and senior Alex Demopoulos with two goals and two assists, as well as Cararro with two goals.
“We just shot the ball well tonight,” said Tierney. “I think it just came together. I think in athletics, you don’t deserve anything, but I think you feel like that after a win like this and some of those tough losses we’ve had.”
Top players for Duke were senior midfielder CJ Costabile with a goal and an assist and junior midfielder David Lawson with three goals.
Costabile and Carraro are two of the top faceoff men in the country.
“I knew it was going to be tough, the kid’s an animal,” said Carraro. “I knew that a lot of times, I was going to win the first move but then he’d be all over me. A few times, he competed for the ground ball and made me pay if I didn’t get it to the right spots, but eventually I settled in and I was able to get it to everywhere that I wanted to get it and mix it up and I also think he might have tired out a little bit and we just kept going.”
Denver will need to roll with this win against Loyola on Wednesday to solidify its NCAA hopes, and Tierney hopes the confidence from this game will carry them to that goal.
“The thing that’s been missing from this team is confidence because we haven’t won those close ones,” said Tierney. “We’re playing the number one team in the country on Wednesday. It’s a team that’s already beaten us at our place, so this is not going to be an easy task; they know us very well. Loyola is going to be raring to go. I feel like we can give them a battle, and if we play like we did tonight, it’s going to be a heck of a game to see.”