The No. 5 seed University of Denver men’s lacrosse team made a second-half push, but came up on the short end of a 15-12 result against No. 1 seed and defending national champion Duke on Saturday afternoon in the NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse National Semifinals at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Md.
The setback marks the second consecutive season that the Pioneers have advanced to the national semifinals and the third time in the last four seasons overall. Denver closes out the season 16-3 overall, while Duke improves to 16-3 and advances to Monday’s NCAA Division I Men’s Lacrosse Championship Game.
Denver rallied to outscore the Blue Devils 8-7 in the second half after being outscored by Duke 8-4 over the initial 30 minutes of action, but it wasn’t enough as the Blue Devils scored three of the game’s final four goals after Denver got to within 12-11 with 11:09 remaining in regulation.
Junior Wesley Berg (Coquitlam, B.C.) paced Denver in defeat with a game-high five goals on 10 shots, while also collecting three ground balls. Freshman Tyler Pace (Mission, B.C.) and sophomore Jack Bobzien (Littleton, Colo.) each contributed three scores.
Freshman Zach Miller (Steamburg, N.Y.) added a goal and an assist in the loss while junior Ryan LaPlante (Fort Collins, Colo.) came up with a trio of ground balls.
Sophomore Chris Hampton (Bethesda, Md.) led the Pioneers in the faceoff circle, capturing 12-of-27 draws.
Jordan Wolf (3 goals, 2 assists) and Kyle Keenan (4 goals, 1 assist) paced Duke offensively in the win.
Denver jumped on the board first as Berg netted his 44th goal of the season, sneaking a pass around a Duke defender as he lost his footing.
Following back-to-back goals by the Blue Devils, Pace tied the game at 2-2 with his 24th goal of the season, beating his defender top-side.
With 1:11 remaining in the quarter, Duke’s Cohen scored to put the Blue Devils up 3-2 off a pass from Jordan Wolf.
Bobzien tied the score 3-3 29 seconds into the second quarter as he circled the cage, taking his defender one-on-one and slipping it low post past the keeper. Duke answered with a goal less than a minute later to regain the lead.
Berg scored his second of the game, 45th of the season, with 8:15 left in the second quarter, beating the Blue Devils keeper low from 10 yards out. Duke answered with 6:26 left to take the lead for the fourth time in the game.
Duke made it 6-4 with 4:54 left before the halftime as Wolf scooped up the loose ball after a save by LaPlante put the ball back in play. LaPlante had made his fifth save of the day off a shot by Jones. Wolf scored his second of the game with 2:33 and then his third of the game with 7.5 seconds left to put the Blue Devils up by their largest margin of the game, 8-4.