VILLANOVA, PA. 5/2/2015 – The University of Denver Pioneers won the Big East Men’s Lacrosse Tournament Championship with a 16 – 8 victory over the Georgetown Hoyas at Villanova Stadium. With the win Denver added the tournament title in addition to their regular season championship, and successfully defended the tournament crown. Pioneer senior attack Wesley Berg sees the accomplishment as a building block for the team.
“It means a lot to us,” said Berg. “We always want to win the conference. It’s nice when you win your way into the NCAA Championship.”
Berg scored 4 goals in the contest and added an assist. He scored what proved to be the eventual game winner. Sophomore attack Connor Cannizzaro had a team-high 5 goals and 3 assists.
Top seeded Denver got out to an early lead, but could not pull away from Georgetown, the second seed. The Pioneers jumped out to a 4 – 1 lead halfway through the first period on a goal by Sean Cannizzaro, who had two in the game. However, the Hoyas got to within 4 – 3 on goals by Bo Stafford and Stephen Qunizi before Erick Adamson tallied for the Pioneers at the 45 second mark.
In the second period Denver scored three goals in 1:11 for an 8 – 3 advantage. Berg had two of the tallies and Adamson the other. Still Georgetown would pull to within 9 – 6 on goals by Craig Berge and Quinzi. Stafford recorded assists on both scores. Stafford had a goal and 4 assists on the evening. Connor Cannizzaro added a goal at the 10 second mark to put Denver in front 10 – 6 at the intermission.
In the second half the 4th ranked Pioneers scored three consecutive goals late in the third quarter to take a solid 14 – 7 lead going into the fourth quarter.
“They played well,” said Berg about the Georgetown effort. “We went on runs to stop the bleeding, and we kept our focus to the end.”
“We fought to the end, but it was not enough,” Stafford said. “We played a great team, but we were a little tentative on offense.”
The Pioneers had a 19 – 6 edge in faceoffs won, and took 31 ground balls to 13 for the 13th ranked Hoyas. Denver freshman Trevor Baptiste earned the faceoff wins giving him a total of 259 for the season. The mark is a new NCAA record for a freshman. What Baptiste really accomplished was keeping the ball in the hands of Denver, and did not allow Georgetown to get offensive momentum.
“We did not have enough possessions to get into a flow,” said Georgetown Coach Kevin Warne.
Denver (13 – 2) is the automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament. The Pioneers continue to build a reputation as a lacrosse force, and are getting recognized as such nationally.
“The name recognition,” said Denver Coach Bill Tierney. “When people see who we are playing, that tells us that this is a pretty good school.”
Georgetown finishes the season 10 – 6, and their post-season fate is in the hands of the selection committee.
“Bubble teams don’t control their own destiny,” Stafford said. “We put it in their hands (the selection committee). We’ve proven ourselves against some of the best teams in the country.”
Written By: Glenn Papazian