After winning their first ever NCAA Lacrosse Tournament victory over Villanova last Sunday, the No. 6 Denver Pioneers now head to Hempstead, New York to take on the No. 3 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays. A second tournament win over a down, but still strong powerhouse like Johns Hopkins would force the lacrosse community to sit up and take notice of the upstart squad from the Rocky Mountains.
As I said in my preview of the Pioneers' opening round game, they are going to beat you with their offense. These guys never give and proved that on Sunday. Down as much as three goals at one point, the Pioneers fought back time and time again. And they have the weapons to do that. Mark Matthews was fearless and Cameron Flint scored two goals from the attack position, filling in for Baxter.
Where I was most impressed was the play of freshman Jamie Faus. The kid stood on his head in the final seven minutes, making seven saves and shutting the door in the final minutes making stops on the Wildcats two leading scorers, Kevin Cunningham and Jack Rice.
The Pioneers will come at you. They wont sit back and slow down the tempo.The Pioneers cannot give the Blue Jays a three or four goal lead. Pietramala and his squad are just too good and execute their game plan too well to be spotted a lead like that. The Pioneers have to keep it close and let their big guns control the tempo on offense. Attackman Alex Demopolous has to connect with Matthews in order for Denver to win this one.
The Blue Jays don[']t give up many shots, so Matthews has to be much more accurate than he was on Sunday (three goals on 12 shots).
I believe the Pioneers can pull the upset but in the long run I feel this is Hopkins' game to lose. Their intangibles (close defense, long stick midfield, face off and goalie) will lead them to victory on Saturday in Hempstead.
My final say is Hopkins heads home to Baltimore with a 9-7 victory.
You will also want to head over and check out the site's fantastic breakdown of Pioneer junior attackman Mark Matthews.