No. 5 Pioneers Defeat Great Danes 8-6 to Advance to Elite Eight
DENVER – The No. 5 University of Denver women’s lacrosse team is headed to the NCAA Elite Eight after winning 8-6 against the University at Albany Great Danes on Sunday afternoon in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at Peter Barton Stadium.
Denver (21-0) advanced to its second NCAA Quarterfinals in program history and first since the 2019 season when it upset No. 8 Michigan in Ann Arbor in Round 2. The Pioneers will face the No. 4 seed and defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels (16-4) on Thursday at 3 p.m. MT in Chapel Hill (TV: ESPNU). UNC defeated Richmond 16-12 in its second round contest on Sunday.
“What a battle. From start to finish, I think both teams left it all on the field,” said Denver head coach Liza Kelly postgame. “Albany was a real fun team to watch on Friday night (in Round 1 vs. Virginia), and we knew they were going to be tough for us to compete again and they sure were. I’m just so proud of [the team] for the perseverance they showed. Just the fight, the heart, the love for each other, I think they really put it out on the field.”
Senior attacker Julia Gilbert led Denver by tallying three goals for the second consecutive game and sophomore Lauren Black also had three points on two markers and one assist. Graduate student Kayla DeRose, junior Sloane Kipp and sophomore Mollie Estepp also scored, and sophomore Ryan Dineen picked up an assist.
Denver goalkeeper Emelia Bohi finished with six saves and also had two ground balls. The Pioneers held Albany (13-7) to 2-for-8 on free position shots in the contest
Down 5-4 early in the third quarter, the Pioneers tallied four unanswered goals en route to the victory. Three of DU’s second-half tallies came off free-position shots and another just before the buzzer at the end of the third frame on a release from Kipp near the top of the arc. Kipp also added three ground balls and two caused turnovers—with one resulting in her tally.
DeRose buried a free-position shot at 13:04 of the fourth quarter to push DU’s lead to 8-5, but Kipp’s marker ended up as the game-winner as Haley Phalines tallied for UAlbany with 5:32 remaining.
The Pioneers scored the first three goals of the game, but the Great Danes responded by notching three of their own before the end of the first quarter to even the outing at 3-3—including burying two in the final 15 seconds of the stanza. The squads traded goals in the second stanza and were tied at 4-4 at halftime.
Sarah Falk led the Great Danes with four goals, tallying each of the team’s markers in the first half. Katie Pascale had three assists, and Grace McCauley also scored in addition to Phalines’ tally.
UAlbany goalkeeper Grace Cincebox made 14 saves, as Denver finished with a 25-18 edge in total shots.
Denver gained 11-of-16 draw controls and had a 24-14 advantage in ground balls. Graduate student defender Trinity McPherson had four ground balls, three caused turnovers and one draw control; senior Sam Thacker registered four ground balls, four draw controls; and freshman Megan Klingenberg totaled four ground balls, three caused turnovers and one draw control.
The Pioneers finish the season undefeated in games at Peter Barton Stadium at 9-0, marking the seventh time in program history they’ve been perfect at home.
UP NEXT: No. 4 Denver and No. 5 North Carolina will face off at Dorrance Field on Thursday at 3 p.m. MT with the winner going to the NCAA Final Four in Cary, North Carolina, on Memorial Day Weekend.
- Denver earned its first win against UAlbany, improving to 1-1 all-time in the series. The teams were meeting for the first time since a neutral-site matchup on March 28, 2010 in Owings Mills, Maryland.
- DU also went undefeated at Peter Barton Stadium in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017, 2020 and 2021.
- Denver stretched its program-record winning streak to 21 games in a row, and the team is the only undefeated squad in the nation.
- The Pioneers improved to 9-6 all-time in the national tournament.
- Peter Barton Stadium was hosting its first weekend ever in the women’s lacrosse national tournament contest (3 games, 2 with DU), but DU’s home had served as a host site for seven previous first-round games in the men’s lacrosse championships.
- DU’s 13 caused turnovers were the third-most in an NCAA Tournament game in school history.
- Julia Gilbert’s three goals give her 56 on the year, surpassing Lauren Black’s 53 in 2022 for the ninth-most in a single season in school history. Gilbert now has 137 career goals to take sole possession of ninth place on the team’s all-time list.
- Gilbert scored her 17th free-position goal of the season, tying Ali Flury (2007) for the most in a single season in program history.
- Trinity McPherson grabbed three ground balls and has 59 on the year, moving past Crystal Jack (2005) for sixth place on DU’s all-time single-season list.
- Sam Thacker’s four ground balls gives her 150 in her career, moving her into a tie for sixth place in program history along with Kate Henrich (2010-2013) and Mariana Spry (2000-2003)
- Head Coach Liza Kelly now has 299 career wins and owns a 235-76 mark at Denver (.756).
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