March 10, 2012

Denver Gets Back on Track, Blitzes Flat Penn State

by Nate Mink | LaxMagazine.com | Related: Live Blog Replay

Freshman midfielder Wes Berg (two goals, one assist) helped the Pioneers get ahead of Penn State early. "Every game he gets better and better," Denver coach Bill Tierney said of the Canadian U19 team member.
© Gray Quetti (file)

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Denver had been talking all week about righting the ship and returning to the level of play from its final four run a year ago.

Saturday afternoon, its coach, Bill Tierney, watched his thirteenth-ranked Pioneers get their season back on track with a 14-6 victory against No. 10 Penn State, which is making a splash on the national scene in just the second year of the Jeff Tambroni regime.

Consider Denver satisfied.

"More than anything, we've been talking all week about making a statement with this game and this would have to be a statement game for us," Denver's sophomore goalie, Jamie Faus, said. "And that statement was made to no one else out there except our team. It was a statement to ourselves that we're good and we need to keep it rolling."

Denver senior attacker Mark Matthews netted five points, including four goals to extend his scoring streak to 34 games, a streak that started March 16, 2010.

Of course, Matthews, a second-team All-American a year ago, gets most of the focus from opposing defenses. But junior attacker Eric Law (two goals, two assists) freshman midfielder Wes Berg (two goals, one assist) and senior attack Alex Demopoulos (40-game point streak) all played key roles for a Denver offense that ranked third in the nation in scoring entering Saturday's game.

"Wes started playing now, and every game he gets better and better," Tierney said. "He's a phenomenal player and he's coming into his own. Those guys just played our offense to perfection in the first half."

Denver (4-1) pulled away in the second quarter, outscoring the Nittany Lions 7-0 in the period. From there, Penn State never made a serious threat to close the gap.

Shots, groundballs and turnovers were all even on the game. Both teams only converted once on extra-man opportunities.

"To be truthful, they must have hit seven or eight pipes," Tierney said. "I don't look at this game as 14-6."

Neither does Tambroni — but for a much different reason.

"Really disappointed by the way we fought today," Tambroni said. "Certainly they deserve the credit for what happened today on the scoreboard, but I just could not be any more disappointed — that's two games in a row we've come out here on our new turf and have been absolutely flat in our place for the first 30 minutes.

"It's almost like we don't start playing until the 31st minute of the game."

Why?

"I wish I knew the answer to that," he added. "I could tell coming out of the locker room today, as we did against Michigan, we didn't have any energy or emotion.

"I don't think we practiced that well this week. I don't know if it was Spring Break and lack of schedule that put us in this mood today. Right when the game started it was like practice, not a game."

Tambroni said Denver still has its best lacrosse ahead of it. It's going to need it in the coming weeks. The Pioneers continue their challenging three-game stretch next Sunday at No. 7 Notre Dame before heading to Hempstead, N.Y., to face No. 3 Cornell, which pushed top-ranking Virginia in overtime Saturday even without its injured captain, Rob Pannell.

Getting one win against a top-10 opponent is a start, though, for a team hoping to get back to the final four on Memorial Day weekend.

"We think a lot of this being a big win," Tierney said. "It's one of those ones where we got a few in a row and hopefully we can keep it going."


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