April 9, 2014

WD1 Notebook: Denver Ends Seven-Year Drought

By Laurel Pfahler | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Denver's Meredith Harris was named the MPSF player of the week for her role in the win over Stanford, which places the Pioneers in the drivers' seat for the top seed and hosting the league tournament. (Michelle Hutchins)

Before last weekend, the University of Denver women’s lacrosse team hadn’t won a game at Stanford since coach Liza Kelly’s first year in 2007.

The Pioneers (11-1) ended that drought with a 13-12 win in California on Friday, rallying back from a 6-0 deficit with the help of five unanswered goals to end the first half. Meredith Harris scored the game winner – her fifth goal of the day – with 6:41 left to help Denver improve to 4-0 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

Denver now is 6-7 against the Cardinal during Kelly’s eight years.

“Getting a win against Stanford on the road in April, especially with the year they are having, it’s huge for us,” Kelly said. “We have to treat every opponent like Stanford, so that’s the next step for us. We play two great opponents this weekend, and we hope to play at the same level we did against Stanford.”

Kelly said her team’s comeback against Stanford came down to cleaning up some things in the midfield and on the draw, which helped take pressure off the defense and give the offense more opportunities.

The midfield became more of a focus after the team’s only loss this season, a 12-7 defeat at the hands of Louisville.

“We had great stops in that game but couldn’t transition,” Kelly recalled. “Louisville played high-pressure, and they were intense and in your face, and it kind of got to our younger players, but it was a great game to say, ‘Get your act together.’

“I think our transition has gotten 100 percent better since then. I joke with the girls a lot that you learn so much more from a loss than a win. It makes you evaluate every part of your play, and we’ve tried to do more self-examination this year, even after a win.”

Denver hosts San Diego State on Friday and Southern California on Sunday.

“We have five games left, and our team is excited to host the MPSF this year, so our goal is to make it there, be a high seed and win it,” Kelly said.

ON THE RISE

After dropping games to Ohio State, Notre Dame and Syracuse during the first half of the season, Northwestern is finally showing the potential coach Kelly Amonte Hiller saw even during the Huskies’ struggles.

Northwestern handed No. 1 North Carolina its first loss of the season last week as part of a four-game win streak against ranked opponents that began immediately following the Syracuse loss. The Huskies, who also beat Massachusetts, Penn State and Penn, are 8-3 going into Thursday’s game against Vanderbilt, a team that spoiled Johns Hopkins’ perfect record 11 games into the season and also upset Stanford.

“We talk about having the lacrosse IQ to understand what’s coming at you and being able to adjust and not just having a cookie-cutter game plan,” Amonte Hiller said. “It comes with experience, and we’re going to keep working on that.”

QUICK SLANTS

No. 1 North Carolina bounced back from its loss to Northwestern last week to beat No. 2 Maryland 17-15 on Saturday in a rematch of last year’s NCAA championship game, but it took some impressive shooting for the Tar Heels to beat the Terps. Carolina scored on 70.8 percent of its shots. The Tar Heels play a big game against No. 3 Syracuse on Saturday in New York.

The America East regular-season champion likely will be decided this weekend, unofficially. Albany (10-1) survived a conference game last weekend against a Vermont team that had just two losses, and the Great Danes now prepare for a showdown with defending conference champion Stony Brook (10-2) on Saturday. Albany was the conference champ in 2012.

Stony Brook goalkeeper Frankie Caridi leads the nation in save percentage, stopping 59.7 percent of her opponents shots on goal.

Wagner sophomore Shea Gegan has caused a Division I-best 38 turnovers (3.45 per game). No one else has more than 2.67 turnovers per game.

It’s no surprise that Maryland ranks in the top 10 for scoring offense and scoring defense this year, but just two other teams join the Terps in both those categories – Albany and Oregon. The Ducks are quietly having a solid season, sitting at 7-4 and unbeaten in MPSF play. They are seventh in scoring offense (15.27 points per game) and scoring defense (7.18).  


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