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MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The 2023 Big East Conference regular-season championship will be decided on Saturday as the No. 3 Denver Pioneers women’s lacrosse team takes on the No. 24 Marquette Golden Eagles at the Valley Fields bubble.
Denver and Marquette are both undefeated in Big East play with matching 5-0 records entering the regular-season finale. The two squads have already earned a top-two seed for the Big East Tournament in Connecticut on May 5-7, but the placement of the two will be decided on Saturday at 11 a.m. MT.
The Pioneers have a 16-0 overall record on the season after winning 15-2 against Georgetown on Saturday on senior day at Peter Barton Stadium. It was the fewest goals that DU had allowed since a 20-1 win over Old Dominion on March 30, 2019 and decreased its goals against per game to 5.81, the fewest allowed by a collegiate program since Southern California in 2016 (5.81).
Eight different players scored Denver’s first eight goals against Georgetown, with Lauren Black and Sloane Kipp both leading the squad with three tallies apiece. Ryan Dineen and Kayla DeRose led the Pios with four points each, as the freshman Dineen had a goal and three assists and the grad student DeRose had a season-high four helpers.
Denver is on a 16-game winning streak, which is tied for the second-longest in school history (2021) and one away from matching the program record of 17 victories in a row from March 5-May 9, 2014.
Marquette is coming off a 12-8 win over Villanova last Sunday in Pennsylvania, as Meg Bireley and Lydia Foust each had hat tricks and Mary Schumar led the team with six points (1g/5a). The Golden Eagles, who beat Butler 22-16 earlier in the week on April 19, own a 15-1 overall record and have won 12 straight games. They are 7-1 at home this year, with their only loss on the year coming in a 21-14 defeat against then-No. 3 and now-No. 1 Northwestern on Feb. 23.
The Pioneers have won all seven matchups against the Eagles dating back to March 25, 2016. DU won 18-9 on April 30, 2022 in the last meeting and will be playing in Milwaukee for the first time since a two-game set there on April 16-18, 2021. The Pios won that first game 16-6 before earning a 12-11 double-overtime victory two days later.
DU is looking to claim its fourth-straight Big East Conference regular-season title and 10th such league honor in program history. The Pioneers were also regular-season champs in the Big East in 2019, 2021 and 2022 and won six such trophies in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2013, 2014).
LAST TIME OUT: The No. 3 Pioneers earned a 15-2 victory on senior day last Saturday against the Georgetown Hoyas in a rematch of the 2022 Big East Championship Game. Eight different players tallied Denver’s first eight goals of the game, and the team used a 10-goal run to secure the end result.
Ryan Dineen (1g/3a) and Kayla DeRose (0g/4a) led DU with four-point outings and the Pioneers received hat-trick performances from Lauren Black and Sloane Kipp each tallied three times for hat tricks, and senior captains Julia Gilbert (2g/1a) and Ellie Curry (2g/0a) both had multi-goal outings as well. Emelia Bohi and Victoria Macres both split time in goal.
- DU won its fifth-straight game against Georgetown and is 7-1 in the last eight meetings vs. the Hoyas.
- The two goals against were a season low, as the Pios only allowed 10 total shot attempts and held the Hoyas off the scoreboard for nearly 45 minutes of game time at one point.
- Denver allowed the fewest goals against since defeating Old Dominion 20-1 on March 30, 2019.
- Kayla DeRose recorded a season-high four assists and matched a season best with four points.
- Lauren Black tallied three goals for the second consecutive game.
- Sloane Kipp had a hat trick for the fifth straight contest.
- Ryan Dineen scored a career-high four goals and has recorded multiple markers in six consecutive contests, featuring three hat tricks in that time span.
- Julia Gilbert has scored in all 16 games this season, and Ellie Curry pushed her point streak to 11 consecutive contests.
- Trinity McPherson had four ground balls, three caused turnovers, an assist and the game-opening goal off the first draw.
- Sam Thacker had four ground balls and forced two turnovers in the contest.
- Thacker now has 136 career ground balls, moving into eighth place in school history. She also 150 career caused turnovers, becoming just the second Pioneer to reach the mark (Kate Henrich, 170, 2010-2013).
JENKINS CLOSING IN ON ANOTHER DRAW CONTROL RECORD: Junior draw specialist Abby Jenkins is on the verge of setting the program’s single-season draw controls record, one year after etching the previous mark. She has 104 draw controls in 2023 and needs just six to surpass the 109 that she earned last season as a sophomore. Jenkins broke the single-season record that was previously held by Maddie Baum (108) in 2018.
‘Juice,’ as her teammates call her, has 268 draw controls over the course of three seasons and the set the school record for the most in a Denver career on April 1 vs. Villanova, surpassing the previous mark of 225 by Kiki Boone (2012-2015), a previous coach of hers. Jenkins had 55 draw controls as a freshman in 2021, and she ranks 14th among active players in total draw controls and is one of two such players on that list who are juniors (Aubrey Williams, Virginia, 327).
On March 13 vs. Delaware, Jenkins recorded 15 draw controls, tying Baum (March 15, 2019 vs. Gardner-Webb) for the second-most in game in program history. Baum owns the single-game record of 16 draw controls on March 10, 2018 vs. Niagara. Jenkins had 10 draws on last Saturday, April 22 vs. Georgetown, marking the third time this season and seventh time in her career with double-digit totals in a single contest. She owns seven of the top 16 draw-control games in the school record books—the most among any player.
BIG IN THE BIG EAST: DU is 5-0 on the season in Big East play and has won 26 consecutive conference regular-season games dating back to April 28, 2018. Denver’s last loss to a conference opponent in the main campaign was an 18-13 defeat vs. Florida on April 21, 2018.
BALANCED SCORING: DU has nine different players with 10 or more goals this season and five with 20-plus markers. The Pioneers’ nine players with 10+ goals tie the 2021 squad for the most in a single season in program history, while their players with 20 or more markers are two shy of matching the school record of seven in 2013. Overall, 16 different players have tallied at least once this season.
The Pios have scored double-digit goals in each of the last 10 games and are outscoring opponents by an average score of 15.8-5.0 in that span since March 9 (143-57 total). DU’s overall margin of victory this season is 7.25, the eighth-highest in the country.
DOMINANT D: The Pioneers rank first in the country in scoring defense by allowing just 5.81 goals per game, the lowest since 2016 when Southern California also allowed 5.81 goals per game. Loyola is second at 6.25 and James Madison is third at 7.31 goals against per game.
Denver hasn’t allowed double-digit goals in a game this season, as the season-high against is nine by UConn on April 8.
The Pioneers are third in the country in caused turnovers per game at 12.62 and have recorded double-digit CTs in 15-of-16 games, including in each of the first 12 outings of the season to set a school record to begin a campaign (previous: 11 in 2021). DU is third in the NCAA in draw controls percentage at 63.7 percent.
Sam Thacker is ninth in the country and first in the Big East in caused turnovers at 2.44 per game. Bryn McCaughey is tied for 42nd in the nation and third in the conference at 1.69 per game. Trinity McPherson ranks fourth in the Big East and 51st nationally by forcing 1.62 turnovers per outing.
SENIOR CLASS SUCCESS: Denver has combined for 72 wins and just 10 losses in the last five seasons, a record that ranks third in the country over the time span. The Pioneers trail only North Carolina (78) and Boston College (76) in senior class wins (as of Monday, April 24, 2023).
GILBERT AT THE 8-METER: Senior Julia Gilbert has scored 14 free-position goals this season, tied with Ali Flury (2009), Kristie Leggio (2006) and Stephanie Greenlees (2006) for the fourth-most in a single campaign in program history. It is the most free-position goals by a Pioneer since Julia Feiss scored 15 in 2018. The program record is 17 in 2010 by Ali Flury.
Ranking 21st overall in the country in tallies from the eight-meter, Gilbert’s .778 free-position percentage (14-for-18) is the best in the nation.
Freshman Ryan Dineen ranks behind Gilbert in free-position percentage on the team (and in the conference) and 11th in the NCAA at 68.8 percent (11-for-16).
30-30-20 CLUB: Defender Sam Thacker is one of nine players in the nation that have recorded at least 30 caused turnovers, 30 ground balls and 20 draw controls.
The Lutherville, Maryland, native has 39 caused turnovers, 38 ground balls and 26 draw controls this year and joins Rutgers’ Meghan Ball (55 CT, 46 GB, 92 DC), Maryland’s Abby Bosco (37 CT, 37 GB, 74 DC), Iona’s Kira Varada (40 CT, 44 GB, 70 DC), UMass’s Audra Tosone (37 CT, 45 GB, 20 DC), Niagara’s Sydney Huhtala (36 CT, 38 GB, 28 DC), Mercer’s Emma Pizzo (36 CT, 41 GB, 43 DC), Fairfield’s Caroline Mangan (31 CT, 31 GB, 33 DC) and Bucknell’s Emily Baird (30 CT, 31 GB, 32 DC) as players to reach each of those marks.
HISTORY VS. MARQUETTE: The Pioneers have never lost to the Golden Eagles, sporting a 7-0 all-time mark and a 3-0 record in Milwaukee. Denver won 18-9 last season against Marquette on 2022 senior day, securing the team the out-right Big East regular-season championship. DU last played in Milwaukee on April 18, 2021 when it won 12-11 in double-overtime to close a two-game series (Pioneers own 16-6 two days earlier on April 16). Prior to that contest, the closet margin of victory by DU over MU was six goals in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
SCOUTING THE GOLDEN EAGLES: Marquette is coming off a 12-8 win over Villanova last Sunday in Pennsylvania, as Meg Bireley and Lydia Foust each had hat tricks and Mary Schumar led the team with six points (1g/5a). The Golden Eagles, who beat Butler 22-16 earlier in the week on April 19, have a 15-1 overall record, have won 12 straight games and joins Denver with perfect 5-0 marks in Big East play. MU is 7-1 at home, with int only loss on the year coming in a 21-14 defeat vs. then-No. 3 and now-No. 1 Northwestern on Feb. 23. The Eagles won 12-9 at home against then-No. 24 UConn on April 15. Mary Schumar is the top point-getter on Marquette with 85 points on 19 goals and 66 assists. Lydia Foust is second in points with 65 and leads the team with 54 goals. Meg Bireley (42g/19a) and Shea Garcia (44g/8a) both have eclipsed the 40-goal and 50-point threshold this season. Goalkeeper Brynna Nixon has started all 16 game and has a 11.29 goals-against average and .428 save percentage to go with her 15-1 record.
LAST TIME VS. MARQUETTE (April 30, 2022): No. 10 Denver ended the regular season with the out-right Big East regular-season title after defeating Marquette 18-9 at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium. Lauren Black led the Pioneers with seven points (4g/3a), Julia Gilbert added six points (4g/2a), while graduate student Bea Behrins chipped in three goals and two assists. Kayla DeRose and Ellie Curry rounded out Denver’s multi-goal scorers with two apiece. Abby Jenkins controlled the circle with 10 draw controls. Sammie Morton, Kailee Lammers and Curry all led Denver with three caused turnovers apiece, leading a 16-caused turnover day for the Pioneers. Morton and Lammers added a game-high five ground balls in the victory. Denver’s goalies split time with Victoria Macres leading the way for Denver’s netminders, stopping seven of 10 shots on goal in the second half.
CONNECTIONS: Marquette freshman Tess Osburn is from Castle Rock, Colo., and went to Valor Christian High School … DU freshman Carly Frohnapfel and MU senior Colleen Graham are both from Chatham, New Jersey … Denver senior Sam Thacker and Marquette freshman Ava Sprinkel both attended high school at McDonogh School … Senior Lauryn Repp and Marquette juniors Audrey Brett and Kelsey Koch freshman Maeve Dooley all attended Loyola Academy in the Chicago area.
PIONEERS IN THE POLLS: Denver remained at No. 3 in both the Inside Lacrosse Women/IWLCA coaches and the Nike/USA Lacrosse Magazine polls on Monday and earned two first-place votes in the ILWomen/IWLCA ranking. This is the highest the Pioneers have ever been ranked in the national polls. DU, which was No. 10 in the preseason, has been placed inside the top 11 in both rankings all season.
Denver is 28-3 all-time as a top-10 team in the country. The Pioneers are 8-30 all-time against teams ranked in the top 10 in the country and is 2-0 this season with wins vs. then-No. 4 Maryland and No. 5 Boston College. This is the first season where the Pioneers have recorded two victories against top-five programs. DU’s RPI is sixth in the country (.6692), as of Monday, April 24.
UP FOR THE TEWAARATON: Two Denver defenders were named nominees for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the top collegiate player in the country. Graduate student Trinity McPherson and senior Sam Thacker are among 25 women’s players up for the 2023 award, and DU is one of eight schools with multiple nominees.
The five women’s finalists from this group will be selected on May 11, and the award’s ceremony to announce this year’s winner is set for June 1 in Washington, D.C.
DU had three additional players chosen to the Tewaaraton Award watch list earlier this year: goalkeeper Emelia Bohi, midfielder Ellie Curry and attacker Julia Gilbert.
HISTORIC OFFENSIVE PERFORMANCE: Denver scored 23 goals on April 16 at Xavier, which was tied for the second-most in a game in school history. The Pioneers also tallied that many times in a 23-5 win on March 18, 2006 against Marist. The DU record is 26 goals, which was set on April 26, 2006 vs. Colorado College.
DU’s 17-goal margin of victory was a season best and the program’s highest since winning by 19 in a 20-1 victory vs. Old Dominion on March 30, 2019.
HOME TURF ADVANTAGE: Denver went 7-0 at home during the regular season and finished with a 10-game winning streak on its own turf dating back to April 30, 2022. The Pioneers own a 35-3 record in their last 38 contests at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium (since start of 2019) and are 49-6 in home games since the start of the 2017 campaign. Denver owns a 130-24 all-time record at Barton Stadium, which opened in 2005.
DU had a 21-game home winning streak come to an end last season with a loss vs. No. 1 Boston College on March 9, 2022. It was the Pios’ first defeat at Peter Barton Stadium since Feb. 26, 2019 (12-10 loss vs. Michigan).
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