Pioneers men's lacrosse edged by No. 1 Duke 15-12

BALTIMORE, Md. - The No. 5 seed University of Denver men’s lacrosse team made a second-half push, but came up on the short end of a 15-12 result against No. 1 seed and defending national champion Duke on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse National Semifinals at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.

“I couldn’t be more proud to coach a group of young men like I have this season,” said head coach Bill Tierney. “We have had an incredible season, led by two outstanding captains. Duke is a really good team and they deserve a ton of credit for making it hard for us in that first half.”

The setback marks the second consecutive season that the Pioneers have advanced to the national semifinals and the third time in the last four seasons overall.  Denver closes out the season 16-3 overall, while Duke improves to 16-3 and advances to Monday’s NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship Game.

Denver rallied to outscore the Blue Devils 8-7 in the second half after being outscored by Duke 8-4 over the initial 30 minutes of action, but it wasn’t enough as the Blue Devils scored three of the game’s final four goals after Denver got to within 12-11 with 11:09 remaining in regulation.

Junior Wesley Berg (Coquitlam, B.C.) paced Denver in defeat with a game-high five goals on 10 shots, while also collecting three ground balls.  Freshman Tyler Pace (Mission, B.C.) and sophomore Jack Bobzien (Littleton, Colo.) each contributed three scores.

Freshman Zach Miller (Steamburg, N.Y.) added a goal and an assist in the loss while junior Ryan LaPlante (Fort Collins, Colo.) came up with a trio of ground balls.

Sophomore Chris Hampton (Bethesda, Md.) led the Pioneers in the faceoff circle, capturing 12-of-27 draws.

Jordan Wolf (3 goals, 2 assists) and Kyle Keenan (4 goals, 1 assist) paced Duke offensively in the win.

Denver jumped on the board first as Berg netted his 44th goal of the season, sneaking a pass around a Duke defender as he lost his footing.

Following back-to-back goals by the Blue Devils, Pace tied the game at 2-2 with his 24th goal of the season, beating his defender top-side.

With 1:11 remaining in the quarter, Duke’s Cohen scored to put the Blue Devils up 3-2 off a pass from Jordan Wolf.

Bobzien tied the score 3-3 29 seconds into the second quarter as he circled the cage, taking his defender one-on-one and slipping it low post past the keeper. Duke answered with a goal less than a minute later to regain the lead.

Berg scored his second of the game, 45th of the season, with 8:15 left in the second quarter, beating the Blue Devils keeper low from 10 yards out. Duke answered with 6:26 left to take the lead for the fourth time in the game.

Duke made it 6-4 with 4:54 left before the halftime as Wolf scooped up the loose ball after a save by LaPlante put the ball back in play. LaPlante had made his fifth save of the day off a shot by Jones. Wolf scored his second of the game with 2:33 and then his third of the game with 7.5 seconds left to put the Blue Devils up by their largest margin of the game, 8-4.

Hampton finished the first half winning 6-of-14 face-offs, while LaPlante made five saves. Berg led the way with two goals for the Pioneers, while Pace and Bobzien both posted one each.

Bobzien netted his second of the game, 41st of the season just 1:02 into the third quarter as he circled the cage and converted as he fell to the ground. Duke answered less than a minute later to take a four-goal lead again.

The Blue Devils took their largest lead of the game with 8:33 remaining as Christian Walsh scored his first of the game to make it 10-5.

With 4:51 left in the third quarter, Bobzien tallied his 42nd goal of the season as Miller found him circling the cage where Bobzien was able to snipe it into the top left corner. Scoring his third goal of the game, the sophomore tallied his ninth hat trick of the season, 10th of his career.

Berg score with 3:10 left in the third to cut into Duke’s lead 10-7 as he scored a man-up goal off a pass from Miller. Berg’s goal was his 46th of the season and good for his seventh hat trick of the season, 19th of his career.

Duke answered off the ensuing face-off to go back up by four, 11-7, before Berg scored with 1:29 left in the third, sneaking a behind-the-back shot passed the Blue Devils’ keeper. Pace scored his second of the game, 25th of the season, off a pass from Noble, converting the man-up opportunity. Denver ended the third quarter trailing by two, 11-9.

Berg cut the Pioneers’ deficit to one, 11-10, scoring his fifth of the game, 48th of the season, with 13:46 left to play. Duke answered almost two minutes later, converting a 30-second timer-on goal to go back up by two, 12-10.

Exactly a minute later, Miller found the back of the net, scoring his 38th goal of the season to cut the Pioneers deficit back to a goal, 12-11. Duke responded with three straight goals to take a 15-11 lead with 7:09 left in the game.

With 6:29 left, Pace scored his third goal of the game, 26th of the season to cut into Duke’s 15-12 deficit. The Pioneers were unable to convert in the closing minutes as Duke’s defense clamped down for the 15-12 decision.

The Pioneers season ends at 16-3 overall, a trip to the NCAA Championship weekend, a BIG EAST Regular Season Title and a BIG EAST Tournament Championship.

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