Eulogizing the 2013 College Lacrosse Season: (5) Denver

Drew Hallowell

The Pios had the most destructive offense in the nation, and that is a screamingly fun fact.

You spent the better part of four months meticulously dissecting the 2013 college lacrosse season. You shouldn't stop now because cold turkey is a bad way to go through life, man. College Crosse is providing decompression snapshots of all 63 teams and their 2013 campaigns, mostly because everything needs a proper burial.


Team: Denver Pioneers

2013 Record: 14-5 (6-1, ECAC)

2013 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 1.95 (14)

2012 Strength of Schedule (Efficiency Margin): 3.28 (1)

Winning Percentage Change from 2012: +17.43%

2013 Efficiency Margin: 8.80 (5)

Efficiency Margin Change from 2012: -0.23


  • Denver was left for dead in a ditch: Down 6-0 just 10 minutes into its NCAA Tournament date with North Carolina, the Pioneers were *thisclose* to journeying to the great beyond. The Tar Heels were in full-on destruction mode, pounding Denver into the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium. Following a gutsy goalie change that saw Jamie Faus replace Ryan LaPlante in the crease, Denver was able to stabilize its dire situation a little bit, putting a few tallies on the scoreboard before entering intermission facing a 9-4 deficit. The first 30 minutes for the Pios couldn't have gone any worse; the second 30 minutes couldn't have gone any better. The difference in play that Denver exhibited between the two halves is face-meltingly ridiculous:

    Offensive Opportunities 18 16
    Defensive Opportunities 22 13
    Possession Margin -4 +3
    Raw Offensive Efficiency 22.22 50.00
    Raw Defensive Efficiency 40.91 15.38
    Raw Efficiency Margin -18.69 34.62
    Shots per Offensive Opportunity 0.83 1.38
    Shots per Defensive Opportunity 1.00 1.08
    Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 26.67% 36.36%
    Raw Defensive Shooting Rate 40.91% 14.29%
    Offensive Assist Rate (Assists per 100 Offensive Opportunities) 5.56 37.50
    Defensive Assist Rate (Assists per 100 Defensive Opportunities) 22.73 0.00
    Turnovers per 100 Offensive Opportunities 44.44 31.25
    Turnovers per 100 Defensive Opportunities 31.82 23.08
    Saves per 100 Offensive Opportunities 27.27 37.50
    Saves per 100 Defensive Opportunities 27.27 38.89
    Denver Save Percentage 40.00% 75.00%
    North Carolina Save Percentage 42.86% 46.67%
    Comebacks like this happen; given lacrosse's unique play where a team can generate possession after possession, thereby allowing itself to erase large deficits due to opportunity availability, going on an 8-2 run over 30 minutes of play isn't unheard of. In Denver's circumstances, though, the comeback is special: (1) The Pioneers did this against one of the best teams in the nation (arguably the second-strongest team in the country in 2013) in a pressure-packed situation where there was no tomorrow; (2) The Pioneers were dreadful in the first half -- absolutely horrendous -- and played like sociopaths armed with a chainsaws in the second half, an effort that not only included the Pios' offense exploding small planets with laser strikes but also Denver's defense crushing the soul of one of the best offensive teams in the nation for 30 straight minutes; and (3) Denver didn't finish the drill until there were precious few seconds reamining on the clock. It's when all of these factors are considered in totem that Denver's victory against Carolina in the quarterfinals stands as one of the most impressive -- and bonkers -- efforts that Division I lacrosse witnessed in 2013.


  • Denver didn't have the easiest time in the ECAC this season. There's nothing inherently wrong with that -- the league was fairly strong in 2013, finishing the year ranked fourth nationally in conference Pythagorean win expectation -- but it's the results that the Pioneers experienced in league play -- regular season and tournament play -- that is somewhat surprising: According to a year-end log5 analysis, Denver yanked an upset and was pushed -- somewhat oddly -- in a handful of its other league games (save for the Michigan and Hobart shellackings):

    Ohio State 10-9 (W); 10-11 (L) 55.73%
    Air Force 11-10 OT (W) 62.70%
    Hobart 14-5 (W) 75.34%
    Bellarmine 11-10 2OT (W) 64.41%
    Loyola 13-12 OT (W) 44.65%
    Fairfield 9-10 (L); 10-8 (W) 70.39%
    This isn't an indictment of Denver; rather, it's an illustration of the fact that it's hard to win Division I lacrosse games, especially conference games where the opponent has a feel for you. Injuries, momentum, traveling -- this all plays into projected outcomes, and the fact that the Pioneers were able to avoid spitting the bit -- even if some of these results were . . . interesting -- is indicia that Denver had their act together and that the Pios' trip to Championship Weekend wasn't a fluke.


  • These timely words from Inside Lacrosse's Terry Foy are more than apt:
    Last fall, Eric Law put his transition from excellent third attackman to premier QB after the graduation of Mark Matthews and Alex Demopolous. A year later, offensive coordinator Matt Brown has to figure out how to replace his 43 goals and 35 assists. The latter might be the more interesting proposition given Denver's unique brand of ball movement that marries iso-wing dodging with initiating from X, so distribution in the Pios' offense seems like it requires a rare skill set. Also, Colin Scott graduated after filling in a valuable utility role at the attack and putting up 10 goals and 13 assists. Add in Wesley Berg's fall absence after breaking his foot in an August Coquitlam Adanacs game and Gordie Koerber's transfer to Ohio State after the lefty's 24-point freshman year, and Denver will have some rearranging to do.
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