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Denver’s Pioneers live up to their name

2015 Division I Men’s Lacrosse

Rarely do mascots seem to perfectly represent their team, but the 2015 University of Denver Pioneers men’s lacrosse team lived up to their name.

They are outliers in a sport steeped in convention. The Pioneers, compiled principally of players who don’t hail from East Coast recruiting hotbeds and managed by a coach who shockingly left his Ivy League dynasty six years earlier, are the first Division I men’s lacrosse national champions from a state that doesn’t touch the Atlantic Ocean. Denver defeated the University of Maryland, 10-5, in the championship final on May 25 in Philadelphia.

Denver began the year as the nation’s top-ranked team, but quickly tumbled in the rankings after losses in consecutive weeks to then-No. 4 University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and at then-unranked Ohio State University. The game followed midterm exams and a 20-hour bus trip to Columbus, Ohio, but head coach Bill Tierney, who guided Princeton University to six national titles between 1992 and 2001, refused to allow his team to make excuses.  

“I've asked our guys to be a little different,” Tierney said. “I've asked our guys to be more disciplined. I've asked our guys to dress well, look well, act well and, maybe, micromanage a little bit. And even through the rough spots they know I love them, and that's the most important part of this whole thing.”

The Pioneers forged onward, amassing 13 consecutive victories and eventually taking the national championship trophy west for the first time in its 45-year existence.

“It's been a long journey,” senior Wesley Berg, the tournament’s most outstanding player, said. 

The Results
2015 Division I Men’s Lacrosse

CHAMPIONSHIP
Denver 10, Maryland 5

SEMIFINALS
Denver 11, Notre Dame 10 (ot)
Maryland 12, Johns Hopkins 11

ELITE 89 HONOREE
Jack Pruitt, Denver

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