Denver bests Notre Dame in clash of opposing tactics

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Peter Barton Lacrosse Stadium hosted another heavyweight match of men’s college lacrosse between the No. 5 University of Denver and No. 1 Notre Dame. In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, DU attacker Connor Cannizzaro five-holed the Fighting Irish’s goalie Shane Doss for the win.

These two college lacrosse powerhouses each had a hard fought game, with plenty of high lights to touch on, yet each teams respective approaches to the game of lacrosse are what makes these two such an entertaining sight.

“They’ve got one of the best defensive coordinators in the game in Gerry Byrne,” said Pioneers coach Bill Tierney said. “They are a very well coached defense. You don’t see teams getting double figures on Notre Dame. When Matt Brown and Gerry Byrne go head-to-head its pretty wild.”

This yearly match up has developed into a rivalry with the last eight games being decided by one goal. After Sundays game, DU has claimed the last three.

“Well Notre Dame and Denver. It is what it is,” said Tierney. “Those guys were fantastic and it was all what we thought it was going to be. We just didn’t know how it was going to happen, but we always knew it was going to be a one goal [game].”

Notre Dame headed into the Mile High City as the No. 1 team in the nation. Although their offense is something to hang their hats on, their strength stems from their defense. Coming into the match, they were the second overall defense, allowing 6.33 goals per game.

Likewise, they are anchored by one of the top goalies in the country, Shane Doss, who put up 13 saves in Sundays game, as well as two-time ACC co-defensive player of the week Garrett Epple.

The two teams exchanged goals back and forth, tying up the score on three separate occasions.

“Yeah just battling. Just going back and forth,” said Denver’s face off specialist Trevor Baptiste. “We knew it was going to be a battle, it always is with Notre Dame, so we just took the blows and went right back at it.”

On the other end, Denver has found its strong suit in their offensive game. Their artillery features senior Connor Cannizzaro, senior Tyler Pace, junior Connor Donahue, sophomore Austin French and freshman Ethan Walker. By the end of the game, the Pioneers let fly 37 shots, which trumps the Notre Dame’s defensive average of 23 shots per game.

“Coach talked about it before the game, that we just have to know that we are going to win the game,” said Pioneers attacker Connor Cannizzaro. “We all believed in that right from the get go, right we just started out, even when we got behind, we never dropped our heads and we never looked back. We knew, and believed that we were going to win.”

With the game coming down to the final seconds, it was almost too perfect that the Fighting Irish defenseman Garrett Epple was guarding Pioneers star attacker Connor Cannizzaro.

“We drew up a play, and when that didn’t pan out like we wanted it to at the end of the game, I saw [Ethan Walker] get the ball and I was just calling for it,” said Cannizzaro. “It was kind of funny, I dropped it and knew there was three or four seconds left and was just going to try to get a shot off. It worked out in the end; it was just a great win for our team.“

After Sunday’s victory, DU now rests at 5-1. Although their ranking is still up for debate, they have proven that they are one of the elite teams after toppling the Irish in their first week of being rated No. 1. The Pioneers will travel east to Columbus to face the Ohio State Buckeyes on Sunday, March 19 at 3 p.m.

“Overall just proud of the group,” Tierney said. “We’re going back to Ohio State now where we lost two years ago, and the next game is all that matters.”

Feature Image: Denver Men’s Lacrosse/Twitter

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