Each week, The Sun has published a Q&A with an area college lacrosse player to get you more acquainted with the player and his/her team. Friday's guest isn't local, but Denver junior attackman Mark Matthews has been drawing attention nationally for his personal success this season, which includes finishing the regular season ranked fourth in Division I in points per game (4.13) and fifth in goals per game (2.73). The sixth-seeded Pioneers meet No. 3 seed Johns Hopkins in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.
ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich said you deserved to be one of the five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award. What did you think of his assessment?
That's his opinion, I guess. It's nice that he thinks so, but it's not that big of a deal as long as our team is winning. Right now, that's the only thing I care about. As for my personal season, it's been a bumpy ride with guys getting hurt and stuff. My teammates on attack, Alex Demopoulos and Todd Baxter, do a lot for me. They get me open and get me shots that I like. So I definitely feel like those guys have helped me.
Did you anticipate having this type of season?
I really don't think about that. It's more of the team thing. I anticipated that we would have a good season as a team, but I didn't really expect this. We've talked about Final Four all year, and we're almost there now. We've just got to keep fighting.
With a 14-2 record and an 11-game winning streak, has Denver accelerated its own development right now?
We thought coming into the season that we had a couple tough games, and we were hoping to get one win out of those three big ones in Duke, Syracuse and Notre Dame. We did that, and it's definitely something that we're looking forward to. Eleven games in a row is definitely something special, and I hope we keep it rolling.
What does it mean to establish Denver as an up-and-coming power in college lacrosse?
It's great. We've talked about it all year, about that stereotype that we're just a bunch of nice guys from out West. We've beaten a couple of good teams now, and we're here and we want to make a name for ourselves. We already have, but we definitely make it known that we can get to the Final Four.
For securing the program's first NCAA tournament win, your reward is a quarterfinal contest against Johns Hopkins. Your thoughts on the Blue Jays?
It's great to play a team like Hopkins. They have a great history. They've been to a lot of tournaments and have been in a lot of Final Fours. So it's definitely going to be a test for us. To knock off a team like them, it would definitely be nice for our program and good for the community.