Drexel not ready for lacrosse season to end just yet

Posted: May 16, 2014

DREXEL'S lacrosse team was flying high after its 16-11 upset win over city rival Penn in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. It was, and is, a big moment for the Dragons, who are in their first postseason in school history. Even though they are excited about advancing, they know there is more to accomplish.

"We are excited," head coach Brian Voelker said. "Obviously, it was a big win, and we want to keep this thing moving. I think it is exciting to be here, but we don't want to be satisfied. That is the message we are trying to get through to the guys right now, but it feels great."

Drexel has another shot at a big upset when it takes on fifth-seeded Denver at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the University of Delaware in the quarterfinals. Despite being underdogs again, the Dragons are not changing their outlook or routine from what they have done all season.

"It is another work week," senior Ben McIntosh said. "We don't want to change too much. We want to stay in our rhythm. The team has a lot of confidence. We know we can do this. We know we are going to come out and give Denver all we got. They are another really talented team, they have only lost a few games this year. It is going to be tough, but we are going to come out and give it our best, that's for sure."

Denver is 15-2 on the season, with its only losses coming to Duke and Penn. The Pioneers' last loss was to the Quakers at Franklin Field on March 1, but they have rattled off 12 straight wins since then, including 9-5 over North Carolina in the first round. They are the third-highest scoring team in the nation, at 13.18 goals per game.

"Offensively, they are super talented," Voelker said. "The attack group, midfield group, they kind of interchange guys at attack and midfield. They have a group that can score. They are a well-coached team, as you would expect from one of coach [Bill] Tierney's teams. It is going to be a huge challenge for us."

"They don't settle for long-range shots," ESPN analyst Quint Kessenich said. "They get the ball inside to 5 to 7 yards, 8-yard shots. When you look at their six guys on offense, there is really not a weak link. You have to defend all six."

Denver's potent offense boasts two 60-point scorers this season: Leading scorer Wesley Berg has 42 goals and 18 assists, while Jack Bobzien has 39 goals and 21 assists.

"You have to take away some of their dominant hand stuff," Voelker said. "Will [Gabrielsen] is going to have to have a good game in the goal and be a real good leader down there and get our defense moving in the right direction. It is a huge challenge."

Some of the focus will also be on the faceoff circle.

"Part of it is we need possessions," Voelker said. "Nick [Saputo] is going to be a big key in the game. If he can get us some extra touches it will help us a lot on our offensive end, but it will also help our defense. We gotta step up and do our basic things."

Saputo was an unlikely offensive spark for the Dragons against fourth-seeded Penn. The junior midfielder scored three goals in the first half after scoring only three previously this season. More important, he took all but one of their final 21 faceoffs and won 17 of them.

"Drexel may have to win 65 to 70 percent of their faceoffs," ESPN analyst Paul Carcaterra said. "Obviously, that is possible with Saputo. You look at his numbers, and he is one of the top guys out there. But that puts a lot of pressure on the kid in terms of getting those possessions."

"I'm preparing just like any other game," Saputo said. "Everyone is really pumped for this one, so I am amped up and ready to go and do as much as possible and get the win for the Dragons and continue on to the semifinals."

No. 1 seed Duke and Johns Hopkins play in the other quarterfinal in the Drexel-Denver half of the bracket. Tomorrow's quarterfinals pit Albany vs. Notre Dame and Maryland vs. Bryant. The Final Four is Memorial Day weekend in Baltimore.

While Denver is a big challenge for Drexel, the Dragons are ready. They said they do not want their season to end, and their coach has been pounding it in their heads that they have had a great season, but it is not good enough, yet.

"Don't be satisfied," Voelker has been telling his players. "Work really hard this week. We have a great opportunity in front of us, but it is going to take a big-time effort."

On Twitter: @AndrewJAlbert01

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