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How Denver Can Win the 2024 NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championship

With Bill Tierney retiring at the end of last season, it was time for Matt Brown to jump into the driver’s seat of the Denver Men’s Lacrosse program. Heading into this season, it was going to be very interesting to see how Matt Brown would handle filling the shoes of a legendary Hall of Famer like Bill Tierney. One could say that the transition to Coach Brown has been going great, considering the Pioneers are making an NCAA semifinal appearance and have a legitimate chance of winning a national championship.

The Pioneers started the season hot with an overtime win in their first road game of the season against Johns Hopkins, setting the tone for their season moving forward. Close losses to Yale and Duke did not dismantle Denver, who finished the regular season with an 11-2 record. Coach Brown got the boys back in order after a loss to Villanova in the Big East Tournament and then demolished Michigan by a score of 16-11 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. That was backed up with a huge defensive win versus No. 4 Syracuse, holding the Orange to just eight goals being the fewest they’ve scored all season.

This season, the team returned seven graduate students, six of which being from the previous tournament appearance in 2021. “These guys have played in a lot of big games; they’ve been on the other side of the outcome in a lot lot of these games … gaining that experience and learning how to compete at this level,” Coach Brown said earlier this week. “Now they are at the very top of our sport, and I’m just so proud of them for doing that.”

The face-offs are going to be vital for the Pioneers. Big East Specialist of the Year, Stathakis, has won 230 of 382 faceoffs this season (60.2%). This dominance at X could give Denver the extra possessions they need to control the game. The offense will have to step up big if it is going to crack the Notre Dame defense. Players such as Sillstrop, Lampert, and Malawsky have to find a way to put the ball into the back of the cage despite whatever game plan the Irish throw at them. The Denver defense has been tough all year, but they’ll need to keep up with this Fighting Irish offense and play a near perfect game.

Denver has shown they can compete at the highest level and if they bring their ‘A’ game, they realistically have a chance of winning the NCAA Championship. The Pioneers hold a 11-14 all-time record against the Fighting Irish, and their last semi-final victory game came against the Irish in 2015 during a 11-10 overtime thriller. That was also the year Denver won their first national championship.

The upcoming matchup against the Irish is the Pioneers’ 13th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and its first since 2021. It’ll be a matter of which Denver team shows up. We have seen the Denver team that tripped up against Villanova, and we’ve seen the resilient squad that knocked off highly ranked Syracuse. Denver has proven it has the talent, the coaching, and the experience to compete with the best in the country.

If the Pioneers can just come out and play up to their potential, they have a real chance of winning the a title this year, and it would be one heck of a first season as the Denver Men’s Lacrosse Head Coach for Matt Brown.