It started at ‘X’ where faceoff wizard Trevor Baptiste won 21 of 22. But the truth is, No. 5-seed Denver was letter-perfect from everywhere on the field Saturday in a thorough 16-4 victory over No. 4 Notre Dame in an NCAA quarterfinal at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
“We played a perfect game,” said Denver coach Bill Tierney, whose postgame news conference was attended by his nephew, Hofstra coach Seth Tierney.
Baptiste was almost perfect. The 5-9, 215-pound powerhouse who was a football and lacrosse player in high school in New Jersey, triggered an efficient offense that scored 11 straight goals after Notre Dame scored first. Austin French netted four goals with an assist, Ethan Walker scored three goals with three assists and Tyler Pace added a hat trick.
“They gave me three, four five different looks,” Baptiste said of Notre Dame’s faceoff-defense strategy. “Like Coach Tierney said, 21 of 23 [Baptiste skipped one draw] is not a one-man thing. It’s a three-man job every time; sometimes a seven-man job; sometimes a 10-man job.”
It was a job well done.
“It gives our team all the confidence in the world when Trevor’s winning the ball like that,” French said. “We have the ball for long possessions and it’s on our side of the field. It allows our offense to get on a roll and we can control the game.”
Next up for the Pioneers (13-3) is the Final Four next Saturday in Foxborough, Mass., against the winner of Sunday’s game between No. 1 Maryland and Albany. The Fighting Irish finished 9-6 and were held without a shot for one stretch of 21 minutes.
“That was an epic fail on our part,” Notre Dame coach Kevin Corrigan said. “I can’t think of a single area where we played well.”
Denver had a lot to do with that.