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2019 Men’s College Lacrosse Year In Review: #20 Denver Pioneers

Denver missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.

Carol MacKay

With the 2019 college lacrosse season complete, it’s time to look back at how all 73 teams did during the season, along with an early look at each squad for 2020.

Note: These are not end of season rankings.

Here’s our last five Year In Review posts we’ve done:

To see all of our posts, check out the 2019 Year In Review section on the site.

Let’s continue our 2019 Year In Review!

#20 Denver Pioneers

Conference: Big East
2019 Record: 10-5 (4-1 in Big East)
Postseason: Defeated Villanova in Big East semifinals, lost to Georgetown in Big East Championship
Head coach: Bill Tierney (10th Season)

Statistical Leaders

Goals: Ethan Walker (39)
Assists: Jack Hannah (18)
Points: Ethan Walker (52)
Faceoffs: Brett Boos (217-of-366; 59.3%)
Ground balls: Brett Boos (87)
Caused turnovers: Matt Neufeldt (33)
Goals against average: Alex Ready (9.21 GAA)
Save percentage: Alex Ready (47.1%)

Personnel Losses

Key seniors departing: A Austin French (17 Gs, 14 As, 19 GBs, 1 CT), D Dylan Gaines (23 CTs, 22 GBs), M Colton Jackson (19 Gs, 7 As, 11 GBs, 1 CT), G Alex Ready (9.21 GAA, 47.1% SV %, 22 GBs, 3 CTs), LSM Matt Neufeldt (33 CTs, 66 GBs, 2 Gs, 3 As), D Dylan Johnson (10 CTs, 9 GBs, 1 G), D Jon Ober (8 CTs, 13 GB, 1 G), M Quinn McKone (12 Gs, 2 As, 6 GBs, 1 CT), A Colin Rutan (6 Gs, 4 As, 13 GBs, 1 CT), LSM Brett Greenlee (9 CTs, 14 GBs)
Senior scoring departing: 88 of 284 points (31%)
Senior starts lost: 83 of 150 (55.3%)

Season Summary

Denver had a problem coming in to 2019: Trevor Baptiste graduated. He played a really large role in the team’s success, winning draws and giving the Pioneers more possessions on offense.

Enter freshman Brett Boos out of the gate. They were big shoes to fill, but Boos did a tremendous job doing so, finishing with a 59.3% faceoff percentage and being one of the best freshman FOGOs in the country.

After defeating Air Force in their season opener, Denver traveled south to take on Duke in an early season marquee matchup. Similar to last season, Denver took a lead into the fourth quarter but saw the Blue Devils come back and go up two with 2:51 left in the game. Freshmen Ellis Geis and Alex Simmons scored two goals to tie the game up at nine with 19 seconds remaining with overtime looking like a possibility. But Duke had other plans as Joey Manown found the back of the net with seven seconds left to give the Blue Devils the win.

Following wins over Utah and Cleveland State, the Pioneers spoiled North Carolina’s grand opening of their new lacrosse stadium in another hard-fought contest. For most of the second half, neither team could take a lead larger than two goals until Denver broke a nine all tie in the final quarter with a three-goal run to help them get the win. The team then went out to California to take on Notre Dame in the Pacific Coast Shootout that didn’t do Denver’s way. The Pios went down 8-3 in the first half to the Fighting Irish but could not flip momentum with a four-goal run.

Their nonconference play was scheduled to wrap up with road contests against Ohio State, Towson, and Princeton, where Bill Tierney used to coach. However, the Ohio State game was cancelled due to the bomb cyclone out in Colorado. Instead, Denver played in two thrilling one-goal games, splitting both of them. They earned a win against Towson thanks to three goals in the final quarter, including Ted Sullivan’s winner with 1:13 left. But in Tierney’s return to Princeton, the Tigers barely hung on in the last few seconds of the game for the one-goal upset of Denver. That was going to hurt the team’s at-large resume come May.

Throughout their run in the Big East, Denver had never lost a regular season conference change. After beating Georgetown, the Pios suffered their first ever Big East regular season loss at the hands of Villanova as Will Vitton made two saves against Denver in the final few minutes of the game. Denver also found themselves in a fight against St. John’s the following week. Following a Providence victory, Denver’s regular season finale against Marquette started out bad with the Golden Eagles taking a 5-1 lead after the first. But the Pios came back and scored eight of the game’s final 11 goals and held Marquette scoreless for the final 17:55 of the game.

Coming into the Big East Tournament as the No. 1 seed and the predetermined host, Denver needed to win the conference tournament in order to reach the NCAA Tournament which they haven’t done since 2015 despite being the best team in each season since. The team took care of Villanova in the semis and faced off against the Hoyas for the second straight year. In 2018, Georgetown took the Big East title but Denver still reached the NCAA Tournament as an unseeded at-large. This time, the Hoyas got out to an early start and Tierney pulled freshman Cole French in goal and replaced him with Alex Ready, who started the majority of the games in net. Down 7-3 at the half, the Pios scored three straight to trim the Hoya lead to one before Georgetown went on a 3-0 run of their own to eventually win by three and end Denver’s season.

Ethan Walker and Austin French were Denver’s top two attackmen. Walke registered 52 points and was the only Pioneer with over 35 on the entire season. French, who missed the first four games of the season, finished with 31 points. Geis started 10 games at attack before going down with a season-ending injury. Junior Schuyler Blair started the final four games of the season and had seven points. The Pios were certainly pleased with the big developments from sophomore midfielder Jack Hannah, who finished with 34 points after playing scrap minutes as a freshman. Colton Jackson, Ted Sullivan, Colin Rutan, Alex Simmons, and Quinn McKone were the other top midfielders on offense.

The close defense was a very veteran unit with senior Dylan Gaines and junior Colin Squires as the two main starters. Fellow senior Dylan Johnson started the first five games of the season and looked great, but a season-ending injury before the Notre Dame game hurt the unit as a whole. In his place were seniors Matt Neufeldt, who started in four games at close defense, followed by classmate Jon Ober. Neufeldt and Brett Greenlee were the two main LSMs on the season, while Danny Logan and Kyle Smith were the main SSDMs with Aaron Boyd chipping in. Ready started the first 11 games of the season but was pulled in the St. John’s game in favor of freshman Cole French. He would start the final four games but was pulled in the Big East title game. Overall, Denver finished fifth in scoring defense even though they were 72nd in saves per game.

Looking Ahead

Denver will have some big holes to fill on defense, especially regarding long sticks. The only notable contributor at close or LSM returning is Colin Squires. In terms of players returning, Oliver Dina, Chris Sullivan, Mac Tezak, and Charlie Winsor are notable guys that could see their roles heavily increase in the fall and spring. Cole French appears to be the favorite to start in net, but the team also has Josh Matte and Tristan Wright returning. Matte started in nine games and played in 10 of them in 2018. The defense will get a new coordinator in John Gallant, who replaces John Orsen. Tierney loves the way Gallant teaches the sport of lacrosse.

On the offensive side, the losses of Austin French, Jackson, Rutan, and McKone are big, but the Pios have plenty of young talent ready to step in. Blair, Johnny Marrocco, Riley Curtis, Drew Erickson, and Sam Dwinnell all join Geis, Hannah, and Simmons as players looking to take on larger roles on offense with veterans Walker and Sullivan. During the summer, Hannah lead the National Collegiate Box Series with 59 goals and 84 points in just 12 games.

2019 was the first time Tierney has missed the NCAA Tournament as the head coach at Denver. He’ll look to help take the Pios back to playing playoff lacrosse in May as the new decade begins.


How many wins will Denver get in 2020?

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  • 19%
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  • 53%
    (34 votes)
  • 25%
    (16 votes)
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