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Denver Takes D1 Title West

Denver Takes D1 Title West” – That’s a headline I’ve wanted to write for years, and now that I can, I’m far from speechless. I’ve got plenty to say, both about the game and far grander ideas, so buckle up and hold on. I’ll hit up the game real quick (you watched it, right?), ask if this was predictable, think aloud about what this win will do to the sport, and take on the haters who thought this game was BORING. Maybe it was!

Denver Takes D1 Title West

The Big Game

Denver looked in control early, and this feeling didn’t dissipate for long at any point during the game. Draws went their way, long possessions turned into good chances, and good chances turned into goals. Denver was predictably patient, and only shot when the right chance was created. At times this was early in a possession, but more often than not, the Pioneers waited for glory, and it came to them.

Denver Takes D1 Title West

Defensively, Denver was able to lock down on Maryland, and limit their chances effectively. When the Terps did break through, great goaltending bailed Denver out. Maryland was never able to consistently get inside on Denver, and lacked a player to spark a run at an impact laden point in the game. Combined with face off wins and long possessions for Denver, Maryland’s lack of transition and offensive slow down meant they had to be perfect on O, and they weren’t.

Denver Takes D1 Title West

Denver did what Denver does, and they controlled the game, to walk away with a pretty comfortable win. Maryland never looked comfortable chasing from behind, and Denver managed the game to within an inch of its life. It was an impressive display of discipline, control, skill, and athleticism on the part of the Pioneers.

Could You See This Coming?

Denver didn’t do anything new in the tournament, and they stuck to their guns 100% throughout the playoffs. They won possessions, held the ball for long periods on offense, and executed passing heavy rotations that slowly pressed the cage, and often resulted in goals.

Denver Takes D1 Title West

Denver was also pretty expert in avoiding the “time on shot clock”, because while they operated outside the box at times, they also moved the ball quickly and consistently. This put defenses on their heels, and Denver was able to press in just as much as they were allowed. Leave it to Tierney to figure out a way to press but not press, eat up the clock, and still score goals. The man is a genius. Once Syracuse, UNC, and the other high flying offenses dropped off, who was going to out-think the genius? No one, clearly.

Denver Takes D1 Title West – Now What?

A lot of things could happen now that Denver has won the title. Other small, private schools will certainly continue to add lacrosse, as they have been for years, and hopefully Denver’s title helps move a couple more along. But that’s obvious. Small, private schools are already adding lacrosse. So what else could happen?

Denver Takes D1 Title West

Well, the first thing that seems to follow a title is an increased rate of interest in the program. Not only will more kids ditch schools like Maryland for Denver, but more Canadians, natives of Colorado, and other western states will continue to flood the campus. Kids want to go where the winners are, and with Tierney/Brown/etc’s eye for talent, they will keep on killing it with recruits. How has no one said that yet?

In a more rosy world, Denver’s win could push a school like Minnesota (hockey rivarly) to add lacrosse. OR, it could push some of the other Colorado schools to add programs. If Colorado, CSU, Denver, and Air Force were ALL playing D1 lacrosse in Colorado it could really change the game. And that could push some of the other big time schools out there (BYU, USC, UCLA, Oregon, ASU cough, cough) to think hard about adding programs as well. There are hurdles, but they aren’t insurmountable.

Denver Takes D1 Title West

But the BIGGEST thing that Denver’s win accomplishes is what it can do for kids at the high school level and below all across the western US. Not only is D1 lacrosse a reality, but winning a D1 title at a school in the western half of the country is a reality. You can’t dispute facts, and this will sway more kids to the sport.

This Is Boring. I’m Bored With This.

We got to see a lot of high scoring, exciting games this year, but when the national championship game isn’t “one for the ages”, people complain real quick. With Denver’s decisive and controlling win, the complaints came hot and heavy, as was expected. But are they fair?

Denver Takes D1 Title West

SHOT CLOCK – 10-5 game with a lower number of shots? Shot clock, the people cry! Really? I still like a slower paced offense personally, as I think running one is exceptionally hard, and defending one is ever harder. It takes PRACTICE, and lots of it, to do correctly, and it’s not a cop out or slow down scheme necessarily, because it also gets results, if you have talent. Maryland TRIED to run one, Denver does run one. If Maryland ran their offense better, this would have been a tighter game, but the shot clock doesn’t fix the closer score issue, it just means more goals.

I can see the argument for increasing the pace of the game, but for me, that wasn’t a slow game at all. Denver held the ball for long periods, but they also MOVED the ball around like crazy, I enjoyed watching that more than Maryland’s somewhat more stagnant approach. Like I said, if Maryland could have run their offense at a level similar to Denver, it would have been a better game to watch, but a shot clock doesn’t really fix that, does it?

Denver Takes D1 Title West

Denver Uses A Slow Down Offense – Do they really? They move the ball, and move their feet, continually. They are probing and looking for chances. They don’t stand around and just hold the ball… ever. That is not a slow down offense. It may be controlling, and it may seem plodding at times, but ask any defender who played against Denver if they weren’t constantly on guard. They should have been. 15 seconds in or 4 minutes in to a possession, Denver is looking for great chances. That’s not slow.

More Goals Is Better For TV – If you believe this, I can’t really argue with you, but I’ll try. Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. There are way fewer goals per game in soccer. A 7-5 lacrosse game can be thrilling. Let’s not equate transition with excitement purely. Let’s not equate more goals with a better on field product. You may want MORE goals, but hey, that’s just like your opinion, man. I want rock solid proof before I’ll give this any more thought. I like goals, but I like lots of stuff.

Denver Takes D1 Title West – Looking Ahead

Obviously next year is next year, but as Denver Takes D1 Title West, they also bring back plenty of talent, and they are definitely entering 2016 as the favorites. Of course they entered this year as the favorites, then everyone dropped them to around the 4 or 5 spot, and then they won it all. So who knows?!?!?!

Denver Takes D1 Title West

All I know is that Denver has a great coaching staff, a pipeline of talent from out West, great facilities, a wonderful campus, a big time manufacturer sponsor, a solid conference, and school support like few D1 teams enjoy. If there is a big monster under the bed in men’s D1 lacrosse right now, the Pioneers come as close as anyone.