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2015 NCAA Lacrosse Tournament: Denver Captures First National Title in 10-5 Win Over Maryland

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The Pioneers join only nine other schools as owners of at least one Division I men's lacrosse championship.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

(6) Maryland v. (4) Denver

Denver earned its first national championship after defeating Maryland at Lincoln Financial Field, 10-5. The triumph marks the seventh time that Bill Tierney has conquered Division I lacrosse, but is the first time that the Hall of Fame head coach has won the NCAA's gold medal outside of Princeton. Wes Berg led all scorers with five goals on six shots on goal while Ryan LaPlante turned away everything that approached his face, making 13 stops and holding a save percentage north of 70.00. Matt Rambo authored a two-and-one essay in the Terrapins' defeat as no other Maryland player accounted for more than a single goal.

Denver opened the game with an ambitious charge: Led by Wes Berg's three goals in the first quarter, the Pioneers built a 4-1 advantage over Maryland after the game's first 15 minutes. Denver was exceptional in the opening stanza, earning an estimated three-possession edge while converting four of the team's eight estimated opportunities into goals, the tallies coming on 44.44 percent shooting (Kyle Bernlohr, the USILA's goalkeeper of the year in 2015, was held to a 33.33 save percentage in the first period). Combined with a defensive performance that limited the Terps to eight shots on five estimated offensive opportunities, the strength of the Pioneers' possession margin and the efficiency gap between the two teams allowed Denver to create a cushion that would not disappear through the rest of the game.

The second frame exhibited a clawback from the Terrapins, although the Pioneers would enter the intermission with a 5-3 lead. Outscoring Denver 2-1 in the quarter, Maryland remained square with the Pioneers in terms of possession margin -- each team generated an estimated six possessions in the second period -- and were more efficient than the Pioneers in turning opportunities into goals, outpacing Denver's 16.67 offensive efficiency with a 33.33 mark, a value derived from an elevated 33.33 shooting rate. Arguably the biggest development for the Terps in the second stanza was the performance that Maryland's defense composed: Facing 11 shots from Denver's nuclear powered offense, the Terrapins permitted only 36 percent to enter Bernlohr's save radius and Bernlohr stepped to the fore with three valuable saves, stops that fed into a solid 60.00 save percentage in the period while yielding only a single tally to one of the country's top offenses. The Terrapins' foray into blacking out Denver, however, would last only until the officials opened the door on the third quarter and the Pioneers stepped through with a flamethrower and a poor temper.

Essentially replicating its effort from the first quarter, Denver rode the hot stick of Zach Miller -- Miller accounted for a goal and an assist in the period, the marker from Miller coming on a bullet gestating from a rebound while the helper allowed Berg to can his fourth goal of the day (the tally came in a 30-second posture) -- to a 3-1 profit in the frame. The Pioneers shot exactly 50 percent in the period while putting each of its six shots on cage, cashing on over 42 percent of the team's seven estimated offensive opportunities. On the defensive end of the field, Denver suffocated Maryland's five estimated offensive opportunities, permitting only one goal -- a diving kamikaze run from Matt Rambo that occurred more than nine minutes into the quarter, a bucket that snapped a 12:51 scoring drought for the Terrapins -- on 16.67 percent shooting (Ryan LaPlante stood on his head in the quarter, stopping 75 percent of the Terps' four shots on net). The game was, with 45 minutes gone, decidedly in the Pioneers' favor: Owning an estimated 21-16 possession advantage -- Denver only bagged three more faceoff victories than Maryland through the first three quarters of the game -- and limiting Maryland to scoring on only 25 percent of the Terps' offensive opportunities while transforming more than 38 percent of its possessions into scores, Denver was cruising toward a victory lap despite a somewhat tight four-goal advantage.

The fourth quarter was an exercise in Denver protecting its status and Maryland displaying a continued impotence on the offensive end of the field. Without an ability to mount a sustained surge -- it took Maryland over 20 minutes to make the scoreboard blink after Rambo put Maryland's fourth goal in Denver's cage -- the Terps were merely in the Pioneers' gravity, a footnote in Denver's historic season while suffering through a reality that includes a championship drought entering its fourth full decade.

TRUNCATED ESTIMATED ADVANCED BOX SCORE: MARYLAND v. DENVER
METRIC MARYLAND DENVER
Score 5 10
Estimated Possession Margin -5 (23) +5 (28)
Estimated Raw Offensive Efficiency 21.74 35.71
Raw Offensive Shooting Rate 16.67% 28.57%
Estimated Turnover Rate 34.78 28.57
Team Save Percentage 52.38% 70.59%