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Bill Tierney: Ugly loss to U.S. team was what defending champion Denver lacrosse needed

Denver men's lacrosse coach Bill Tierney watches as his team works out prior to the start of the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse championship game against Maryland, Saturday, May 25, 2015, Philadelphia.

Denver had been on a whirlwind victory tour since a 10-5 win against Maryland in the NCAA tournament final on Memorial Day in May. The team returned home to a pep rally attended by Denver mayor Michael Hancock and Colorado lieutenant governor Joseph Garcia, participated in a ring ceremony, and was honored by the Colorado Mammoth of the National Lacrosse League.

After all the pomp and circumstance, the Pioneers faced the U.S. national team in an exhibition in Bradenton, Fla., on Jan. 10 and got pummeled, 22-6. It was the kind of opening that coach Bill Tierney was looking for.

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"The really good news was that because we were the champions, we got invited to play the U.S. team on Jan. 10, and we got our brains beat in," said Tierney, who won his seventh national championship and became the first Division I men's coach to win the crown at two different schools. "I think that was the first reality of, 'OK, boys, enough is enough,' meaning that I and everybody around our program knew that it's time to get back to work."

Accompanying the congratulations, accolades and glamour that come with winning a national championship is the understanding that flying under the radar is impossible.

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That wasn't going to happen anyway with Denver emerging as an annual contender for the NCAA title and building a 2016 schedule that includes four NCAA tournament qualifiers in Duke (at a neutral site on Feb. 20), North Carolina (away on March 5), Notre Dame (away on March 13) and Ohio State (home on March 19).

But capturing the crown at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia will certainly heighten the anticipation this year's opponents will have when meeting the Pioneers. And that's fine with Tierney, too.

"I think we've learned that a bit," said Tierney. "… We know what we're up against, and I think the idea for the guys is, it's harder to play against good teams, but it's easier to motivate the guys and get them to know that these guys are out for blood and these are the guys that can beat you. … If you go through a schedule and the RPI and the strength of schedule isn't great or at least play some great teams, then why do this? If you go into this profession to be .500, that's what you're going to be."


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