After a fast-paced first-round win over Albany, the University of Denver Pioneers will advance to the NCAA quarterfinal round to take on the University of North Carolina Tar Heels.
The third-straight quarterfinal appearance may be the toughest match of the season for the Pioneers, as the ACC champions also bring a dangerous attack backed by a talented defense to Indianapolis.
“When you get to this time of year, you’re always going to play somebody great, and now it’s up to our guys to get ready,” Head Coach Bill Tierney said on denverpioneers.com. “They’re already excited, and we know we will have our hands full.”
Sophomore midfielder Wesley Berg led Denver with eight goals in their first-round victory, followed by four goals a piece for attackman Eric Law and midfielder Cameron Flint. In contrast, the Tar Heels had 11 players net a goal in the first round and were led by attackman Jimmy Bitter and midfielder Chad Tutton’s with three goals each.
While the two teams find different ways to put the ball in the net, their different styles of play produce similar results. UNC puts in an average of one-and-a-half goals per game more than Denver, while on defense both sides allow an average of about nine goals per game.
The Pioneers have the scoring ability to put up big numbers in a quarter, as they had back-to-back six-goal quarters last week. However, it will be the way Denver starts that will be a larger determining factor.
Both teams had slow starts in the first round, with Denver matching goals to end with a 3-3 tie and UNC down 2-1 after one quarter. In identical fashion, the two teams both put up a six-goal second quarter to go into halftime with a cushion.
If the Pioneers can lock-down the Tar Heel’s variety of scoring threats and get on top early, they have the talent to break the game open in the second and third-quarters. However, conversely, a slow start could make this game a defensive battle that could be decided late in the fourth quarter – which could very well happen either way.
This game will features two teams that had No. 1 rankings at various points in the season, and could easily have been a national title match.
“It’s thrilling to be in a third straight quarterfinal with this group,” Tierney said on denverpost.com. “Here we are playing North Carolina in what could be equal to a national championship game.”
Denver will face off versus North Carolina 8 p.m. EST May 19 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.