In four (relatively) short seasons, Bill Tierney has turned Denver from a footnote into a powerhouse in lacrosse. During Tierney’s tenure, the program has gone 50-20, won three Eastern College Athletic Conference regular-season titles, and advanced to two Final Fours and one quarterfinal.
That’s fine and dandy, but Tierney said the Pioneers are equipped to take the next step in their maturation.
“[Y]es, our goals are extremely high,” he said. “We feel like we’ve had some firsts here at the University of Denver with two home playoff games and two Final Fours in the last three years. So obviously, the next logical step in our minds is to win a national championship. But there are some great coaches and some great schools with lots of great players that are thinking the same thing. So we’re going to work hard toward that goal and we can achieve that goal, but we also are very cognizant of how very difficult that road can be.”
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Denver has been very close in each of the last two seasons. In 2012, that squad scored three goals within a six-minute span in the fourth quarter, but could not get the equalizer in a 10-9 loss to eventual national champion Loyola in a NCAA tournament quarterfinal. Last year’s team had an 8-7 lead with one minute left in regulation before Syracuse scored twice to escape with a one-goal victory in a tournament semifinal.
“I would say that it was our best team at Denver,” Tierney said of last spring’s squad, “but what everybody forgets is when I was really lucky to win six national championships at Princeton, four of them went to overtime, and there’s a lot of things that go into overtime wins in national championship games and luck is one of them. So who knows? All I know is what we’re building here is something very special. We’ve got some great guys and our eyes are still on that prize.”
The Pioneers return four starters and midfielder Jeremy Noble, who recorded 11 goals and seven assists despite sitting out nine games because of a hamstring injury. They also welcomed sophomore attackman Jack Bobzien, who transferred from Hartford.
Bobzien, a Colorado native who posted 15 goals and 33 assists last season, reminds Tierney of former attackman Eric Law, another Colordao native who registered 43 goals and 35 assists last year after transferring from Salisbury in 2010.
“In very similar ways, I see a lot of Eric Law in Jack Bobzien in that he is tough, he is highly skilled, he’s a professional in the way he goes about his business,” Tierney said. “He loves to practice, he’s tenacious. So is he Eric Law yet? Jack would be the first one to tell you no. Can he be Eric Law? I think he’s got an advantage over Eric in that when Eric was a sophomore, we had [Mark] Matthews, [Alex] Demopoulos and Todd Baxter, so Eric had to play midfield. In his junior year, we had Demopoulos playing behind the goal, so Eric had to play the right wing. And then finally in his senior year, we were wise enough to move him to his natural position, which was to be our leader and our quarterback at the X. Jack’s going to get that opportunity right now. If he makes a couple mistakes, so be it. We’ve told him that we are blessed to have him, we are proud of him, we trust in him, and if he makes some mistakes along the way, it’s only going to make him better.”