Denver Women's Lacrosse 2017 Year in Review
Pioneers finish 2017 campaign as BIG EAST Runners-up in head coach Liza Kelly’s 11th season
May 26, 2017
DENVER – With the 2017 season in the books, the University of Denver women’s lacrosse program will use the foundation set during head coach Liza Kelly’s 11th season at the helm as a cornerstone for future successes. The Pioneers experienced wonderful highs and unfortunate lows, and at the center was a group of highly-motivated student-athletes ready to leave everything on the field.
Before the fall season could roll around, DU had plenty of pieces to move into place as Mallory Poole joined as the Director of Lacrosse Operations in September, while Terry Ellis signed on as a volunteer assistant coach later in the same month. Associate head coach Matt Lawicki returned to guide the offense in his fifth season while assistant coach Hannah Hook looked to lead the goalkeepers in her second year on the sidelines.
With the coaching staff set, let’s take a look at the journey that was the 2017 season.
BEFORE WE START
DU welcomed 10 student-athletes to the 2017 roster, tabbed as the first freshman class to compete for the Crimson and Gold as a new member of the BIG EAST Conference. The Pioneers welcomed back 21 individuals from the 2016 campaign, highlighted by 10 starters ready to take the field once again at Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium.
On the defensive half, upperclassmen paved the way as seniors Layne Voorhees, Sybil Pallace, Hunter Gray and Maddy Stevenson all bore the brunt of the work to keep Denver competitive in high-scoring contests. The offensive half featured underclassmen standouts such as the sophomore trio of Kendra Lanuza, Elizabeth Behrins and Julia Feiss, while the midfield would be anchored by junior Riley Eggeman and redshirt-senior Emily Conway, who was looking to rebound from an early exit in 2016 due to injury.
DU had reason to celebrate before the season ever started, signing nine in the early period prior to setting foot on the field for the first game. The Pioneers were also tabbed fourth in the BIG EAST Preseason Poll, while redshirt-junior Nicole Martindale was named as the lone Denver member to the Preseason All-BIG EAST team.
AND HERE WE GO
Before the Pioneers had a chance to make an impact in the BIG EAST, they had to run the gamut of foes from their former conference, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Denver took a win against San Diego State to open the season and followed up with a convincing show against California to set the stage for a showdown with No. 12/12 Stanford.
DU scored its first upset of the year, a 10-7 win over the Cardinal as Stevenson made a career-high 16 saves to preserve the win, and garnered recognition in the Cascade Media Poll with a No. 19 ranking the following week.
Lanuza and Stevenson were recognized by the BIG EAST for their performances on the field as Denver faced another tall task of tackling No. 18/RV Louisville for the home opener at PBLS. Behrins became the hero for the Crimson and Gold, burying a free-position shot in triple overtime to send the Pioneers to their best start in program history at 4-0 and took home her first BIG EAST weekly award with Voorhees, as DU rode the momentum to a No. 15/14 spot in the rankings the next week.
Denver kept the winning streak alive with a dominating 16-6 victory over UC Davis the next week to give Coach Kelly career win no. 199 and set the stage for the battle of the unbeaten with in-state rival No. 13/9 Colorado. Unfortunately, the Pioneers had to wait to give Kelly her 200th career win as the Buffaloes took away a 14-3 decision in Boulder, Colo.
Coach Kelly wouldn’t have to wait long, thankfully, as DU rebounded with a 14-4 win over Vermont, spurred on by Feiss’ sock trick, while Voorhees nabbed her second Defensive Player of the Week award after scooping a trio of ground balls and forcing three caused turnovers in the win.
OUT OF THE FRYING PAN
Denver’s first taste of BIG EAST action came in the form of No. -/RV Temple paying a visit to the Mile High City, a contest that saw a brilliant pair of behind-the-back goals from Lanuza power the Pioneers to a 14-6 win and gave her the eighth spot in Sportcenter’s Top 10 that very night.
Not to be outdone, Pallace tallied a career-high seven caused turnovers en route to claiming her first weekly award, while DU earned it’s highest ranking in nearly four years with a No. 13/13 spot prior to a showdown with No. 3/3 Florida.
The matchup with the Gators proved a tough test for DU, taking a 15-8 loss despite narrowing the deficit to four goals with 15 minutes remaining in the contest, but another strong rebound the following contest against Connecticut at 16-11 ensured the Pioneers would not feel the bitter taste of defeat for long.
The win over the Huskies had many moving parts, but the biggest two came from Lanuza and Behrins as the duo took home their second BIG EAST weekly awards behind Lanuza’s seven points on three goals and four assists, while Behrins potted seven goals and added one helper for eight points.
The Pioneers kept the winning streak alive after besting Marquette, Vanderbilt and Villanova, to set up a showdown with Georgetown to break up the second-place gridlock in the BIG EAST. The contest with the Hoyas was a close affair as Feiss put away five goals, but her heroics weren’t enough to stem the tide as GU handed Denver its second loss in conference play at 9-7.
As with the other losses on the year, the Crimson and Gold responded with force and buried Cincinnati under an avalanche at 17-0 on Senior Day, only the fourth shutout in school history, and were spearheaded by Voorhees’ eight caused turnovers to tie the school single-game record. Voorhees would go on to claim her third BIG EAST Defensive Player of the Week award for her efforts.
AND INTO THE FRYER
The Pioneers drew Georgetown for their BIG EAST Semifinal matchup, a hard-fought contest that came down to the wire and saw junior Caitlin Derry rifle home the game-winner in the final minute to take a 9-8 win that pushed Denver to the BIG EAST Championship against No. 2/3 Florida.
DU fell in the title game at 18-12 to the Gators, cutting the lead down to 14-9 with 15:30 to play but unable to build any momentum for the final push. Derry, Feiss and Conway were named to the BIG EAST All-Tournament team for their efforts as the Pioneers awaited their fate in the NCAA Tournament
Unfortunately, lady luck was not on Denver’s side as the season finale would take place without the Crimson and Gold for a third straight year.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE
Despite missing out on the tournament, the Pioneers had reason to celebrate a successful year after getting four on the All-BIG EAST teams as Voorhees and Lanuza were unanimous First Team All-BIG EAST selections.
Voorhees capped her career in the Crimson and Gold with a selection to the First Team All-West/Midwest Region for her performance on the year, while Lanuza earned a spot on the second team while serving as the primary distributor for Denver’s offense.
More news is yet to come as DU reloads for the 2018 season and will return seven of its top eight scorers for the spring.
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